Edward Little gets SMART

By Jake Bazinet, ’15

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Danielle Gagne shares her project on water quality to local business owners in the field of science and agriculture.

Edward Little students, part of SMART, the Stormwater Management Research Team, visited the University of Maine recently to study ways that stormwater run-off affects water quality. The students studied a variety of factors that impact water quality, and their research may be used in the future to help inform the Auburn community of local water quality issues. 

The team conducts storm water research and studies how to keep local water sources healthy and clean. The program also includes many other schools statewide. The program initially started out as a proposal from the University of Maine, Orono, and eventually turned into a grant funded by the National Science Foundation. This grant then partnered schools with a diverse group of students interested in pursuing STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The team visited the university to learn more about stormwater. Students were also given a tour of the university’s retention pond, consisting of various plants and attracts wild animals. Students also learn the difference between a sewage drain and stormwater drain. With current research, the team discovered traces of foreign substances and waste being dumped into stormwater drains, disrupting the quality of water. The university’s green building also contributes to reducing affects on storm water.

During the trip, students were able to sit in on lectures given by state biologists, workers for the EPA, and engineers, informing students on the importance of water quality.

With support of the university, the team tested water quality, built sensors, participated in team building exercises, and studied pathogens living in water.

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Students from the SMART team discuss future projects with a representative from the University of Southern Maine – Lewiston/Auburn.

Testing dissolved oxygen, or the amount of oxygen in the water, they discovered too much or too little can destroy habitats and kill organisms. “Testing ph was also important,” said  sophomore Mary Philbrick, “because if levels are too high, algae builds up reducing oxygen levels in water. Conductivity, temperature, and also macro-invertebrates were other forms of testing we conducted to collect data.”

Applying their skills, the team shared that they were fortunate to connect with Auburn’s water district and test storm water run-off that ends up in the local water supply. “We will use hand-made sensors in the Androscoggin to test the amount of phosphorus in the water,” said sophomore Corryn Lachance. “Over time, we plan on keeping records on graphs and charts to inform the water district for their use.” This data will then help the district understand more about the negative affects of stormwater run-off on water quality.

The SMART team will continue to test water quality in Lake Auburn. With their past experiences, the team plans on entering science competitions with their new research. In the next few months, the team also plans on revisiting the university for training to learn how to test for chloroform in the water. “We will learn more in depth on what it is and how it is affecting the water,” senior Caitlyn Lewis said.

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