Paper No. 60
Presentation Time: 11:45 PM
PURGATOIRE RIVER WATER QUALITY: A TWO-YEAR COLLEGE UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH PROJECT FROM SOUTHERN COLORADO
Trinidad State Junior College, an Hispanic Serving Institution in southern Colorado, is expanding its undergraduate research opportunities for minority community college students thanks to a partnership with Colorado State University through their National Science Foundation-sponsored Louis Stokes Colorado Alliance for Minority Participation grant. The local Purgatoire River provides a natural laboratory for such student research projects. Water quality is an important issue concerning the health of a river ecosystem. A student study conducted over the summer along a short stretch of the river addressed water quality with the goal of determining the negative impact, if any, caused by the town of Trinidad or the nearby reservoir. Trinidad Lake reservoir is a popular boating and fishing destination for the region. Organic and inorganic compounds were tested for this study. Water was collected at three points on the river at two week intervals. The first point was just above Trinidad Reservoir. The second point was after Trinidad Reservoir and before the town of Trinidad. The final point was after the town of Trinidad. Tests were conducted for the presence and concentrations of oil based compounds, iron, ammonium, nitrite, nitrate, pH, and sulfate. Two hypotheses were tested: first, that the levels of contaminants would become more evident as the summer progressed; second, that levels of contamination would be higher the further downstream the collections were taken. According to the data, the water quality of the Purgatoire River appears to be very stable and clean. During the study period the only significant change in water chemistry occurred during the third testing cycle. The third testing cycle coincided with a significant rain that introduced a large quantity of soil into the river. We concluded that this increase in soil content is responsible for the increase in silicates and drop in pH. The data disproved the hypothesis of decreasing water quality through the course of the summer. The stability of the water quality through the system does not show an increase in contaminants due to increased tourism during the summer. In addition, the town of Trinidad did not increase the level of contaminants introduced into the river. Future studies of the Purgatoire River should continue to monitor the levels of contaminants.