Blowing off steam with Adopt-A-Stream

Violet Covey, Staff

After last year’s lead contamination of the school’s water fountains, the regular testing of water has proven to be vital. Not only do we rely on these water sources, but so do entire ecosystems. Colette McCarty, Environmental Club Captain and leader of Druid Hill’s Adopt-A-Stream organization, heads a of group of three other devoted students— Huytom Nguyen, James Shirk, and Patrick Welter— to help chemically measure our local stream’s health. “[Adopt-A-Stream] really has provided a great experience to everybody involved by learning how to work with other people efficiently as well as helping the environment at the same time,” Shirk said. McCarty has been an active participant in Adopt-A-Stream for three years while Welter previously participated in his sophomore year. Now, as a senior, McCarty leads Druid Hill’s 2017-2018 Adopt-A-Stream crew.

Adopt-A-Stream is a volunteer organization dedicated to monitoring water quality  all over parts of the southeastern United States— with one active site in Mexico as well.  These people pledge to monitoring different streams, lakes, and rivers all around North America. Adopt-A-Stream keeps bodies of water healthy and clean thanks to the thousands of enthusiastic volunteers they receive every year.

Once every month, the Druid Hills “stream team” takes it upon themselves to collect data comprised of pH levels and dissolved oxygen levels from the Peavine Creek. These meetings can last as long as 90 minutes— including the 15-minute walk from the school to the creek.

Once the group has recorded their data, they immediately submit their findings to the Adopt-A-Stream’s government database. This data indicates to water specialists if the water’s quality is or is not in check. “A normal range of pH in water systems can be anywhere from 6.5-8.5.” McCarty said. Data collected within the past few months shows the average pH of Peavine Creek to be around 6.5-7, while the recent data of dissolved oxygen shows it to be 1.4-2.75 ppm. “It is important to know that levels below 2 ppm will not support fish or any other marine life. There are many different environmental factors that can lead to a change in dissolved oxygen, such as rain water or autumn leaves falling into the stream. These factors can help increase the oxygen levels,” McCarty said.

“There are lots of characteristics of water that are used to indicate the quality of water in our streams. Some of these indicators are characterized by pH, dissolved oxygen, water and air temperature, as well as the turbidity in a body of water,” McCarty said. Chemicals such as alkaline potassium iodide azide, manganous sulfate solution, sulfuric acid, starch indicator solution, and sodium thiosulfate (0.025N) are used to conduct chemical monitoring tests. Although these chemicals can be extremely dangerous if handled improperly, McCarty ensures that the “stream team” follows all of the precautions necessary to protect everybody while collecting their data.

In keeping with their Environmental Club affiliates, Adopt-A-Stream not only tests water, but they also clean up and recycle the waste they find around the bank in order to keep the surrounding area clean. “A group of three can divide up the stream testing evenly. So, if we have four volunteers, I take the opportunity to clean up litter near the stream,” Welter said.

The current problem facing McCarty is finding somebody to take over the next school year’s Adopt-A-Stream. Because all of the students who participate in Adopt-A-Stream are seniors, there is no one yet assigned to continue Adopt-A-Stream next school year. McCarty urges every student interested in the science field to take part in this fun, fulfilling, and beneficial environmental project. “Adopt-A-Stream in general is very rewarding. Usually, it’s a small walk to the nearby creek to test the water and the surrounding area. My favorite thing to do is to test the dissolved oxygen with the various dangerous chemicals,” said Nguyen, who has been an active member of Adopt-A-Stream for three years. In fact, many of the current Adopt-A-Stream volunteers began as sophomores after being introduced to the organization in Ms. Brown’s chemistry class.

Adopt-A-Stream is a great opportunity for environmental activists to undertake, whether they are members of Environmental Club or not. “I want Adopt-A-Stream to be a welcoming environment for any and all students interested,” McCarty said. She welcomes all interested underclassmen to speak to her or Ms. Montooth before certification, which begins on February 9th. The current “stream-team” guarantees Adopt-A-Stream will be an interactive and enjoyable experience for anyone interested in “taking a dive” into the opportunity.

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