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University Students Continue Testing Well Water Quality In Southern Illinois

Published: April 13, 2021

A second summer of research has opened more doors for G.U. students to serve Southern Illinois through water quality testing.

Student researchers initiated the well water testing project last summer, examining water from municipal and private sources in the Greenville area for bacteria, metals and other potentially harmful contaminants. Undergraduates Hannah Frerker 19 and Logan Dameris 20 continued the testing this summer.

To date, student researchers have tested more than 130 samples, most from private wells. Chemistry Department Chair Darrell Iler oversees the ongoing project. This summers work entailed:

  • Expanding connections. We are working with surrounding county health departments to make more contacts and test more wells, says Hannah. She and Logan brainstorm creative ways to reach well owners in Bond, Fayette, Madison, Montgomery and Clinton counties.
  • Applying for a grant. The research team is in the process of applying for an EPA grant to fund the projects expansion.
  • Developing new tests. So far, the project has tested for bacteria, metals, nitrate, and personal and pharmaceutical products. New tests might detect substances such as fluoride, chloride and other dissolved solids.
  • Utilizing new equipment. A new inductively coupled plasma emission spectrometer, or ICP, will expand the teams water testing capabilities.
Research Powered By Generous Donors

A $45,000 gift from the Shimadzu Corporation coupled with individual donor gifts to the Universitys Catalyst Fund made purchase of the ICP possible. The instrument allows students to test water specifically for the presence of metals at trace levels (parts per billion, ppb). Previously, students conducted nitrate measurements and bacteria testing on campus but shipped their samples to Virginia Tech for metal testing. An on-campus ICP makes it possible to test for the presence of metals within Greenville Us own laboratory.

The equipment arrived in early July, giving Iler and his team the second half of summer to learn how to use it.

We are so excited to learn how to use this instrument and help more people, Hannah says.

The possibility for application across many STEM classes only increases the ICPs value to experiential learning.

The instrument will have impact across the chemistry curriculum, says Iler. It will be used in lab experiments in General Chemistry (a freshman class), Analytical Chemistry (a junior/senior class) and Physical Chemistry (a senior class).

Biology students will also use the ICP in the environmental program. This plan aligns with Greenville Universitys efforts to allow STEM students access to advanced instrumentation beginning freshman year.

An Ongoing Project

The Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) records more than 700,000 existing wells in the State of Illinois. While the G.U. project has its eye on Southern Illinois for now, that still presents a wide scope of property owners who could utilize the Universitys water testing for their benefit.

We hope to make this an ongoing project for years to come, Iler says.

I have been with this project since it started, adds Hannah, and it has taken off. It has become much bigger than Dr. Iler and I could have ever imagined, and we are so grateful for that.

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Funds like the Catalyst Fund and the Foundation for the Sciences bring hands-on learning to G.U. STEM students. Your gift makes it possible. Thank you for giving.

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