Snake River watershed: Hands on science project

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Here’s a recap of a recent science project that saw students scattering about 4 different sites in the Snake River watershed, from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit Daily News. From the article:

Helped by teachers, parents and staffers from the Keystone Science School, about 100 students from Summit Middle School set up research stations last Friday around Keystone at four different sites to measure dissolved oxygen and zinc levels, look for aquatic insects and take other measurements…

To measure the speed of the river’s flow, the students marked off a 50-foot section with red flags, then dropped apples into the water and used a stopwatch to time how long it took — about eight seconds — for the fruit to float downstream. During the next few weeks, the students will analyze the data in the classroom and put together a report of their findings, said science teacher Brian Richardson. Along with a hands-on lesson in scientific research methods, the students found out that there just isn’t much life in the Snake River around Keystone. The students who were looking for bugs came up empty handed. Seeping from the abandoned mine upstream, concentrations of zinc and other metals exceed state and federal limits, in violation of the Clean Water Act…

The Pennsylvania Mine has been fingered as one of the main sources of pollution, but smaller mines in the basin, as well high levels of natural minerals, also contribute to the problem. The long-range goal is improve water quality in the Snake River to a level that could sustain a natural fishery, said Jean Mackenzie, an EPA researcher who has led recent federal cleanup efforts. Years ago, state environmental experts and local volunteers teamed up to try and treat the water with some man-made wetlands and a passive treatment system, but the scale of the problem overwhelmed those efforts…

The current focus is on trying to pinpoint exactly how the polluted water flows through the Pennsylvania Mine and from other polluted drainages in the area. Some of the most polluted water could be diverted away from Peru Creek, experts said. Another option is to move some of the waste rock from the mine away from the water to reduce the amount of pollution reaching the stream.

More Peru Creek Basin coverage here and here.

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