Students test water, maintain river health


Testing the waters Matt Guenther of Ottawa wades into the Little Vermillion River to test for chemical levels. Guenther is a student in instructor Keith King’s biology class. He joined with other science students to test the river for chemicals on Saturday, Oct. 20. Chem Club has been testing the river since 1994 in conjunction with the Illinois Prairie Rivers Network in an effort to maintain the health of Illinois waterways. The sites of the testing are all across the Little Vermillion from Mendota to La Salle.

Matthew Gerding, IV Leader editor

Science classes at IVCC have been adding field research into the extra-curricular agenda for interested students since 1994.

Those students in science classes who prefer doing rather than listening can participate in the Rivers Project, a joint effort by the varying science departments of IVCC that tests the Little Vermillion River for harmful elements.

The testing started in 1994 as a Chemistry Club project, but has since grown to encompass students from all science fields, according to instructor Larry Ault, who coordinates the river testing.

Participants go to one of 10 active testing sites ranging from just south of Mendota to the cement plant in La Salle. Samples are taken of the river water for fecal-coliform and macroinvertebrates testing.

Anywhere from 20 to 30 students participate in the project and travel to two sites each Saturday of the testing. IVCC schedules four testing dates, usually on the third Saturday of September, October, March and April.

They test to see how environmental changes such as temperature or rain fall affect the results, according to Ault.

All results are sent to Illinois Prairie Rivers Network which is dedicated to the health and improvement of Illinois waterways, according to Ault.

In addition to the regular testing,  Chemistry Club also hosts a middle and high school workshop in the spring. This involves letting the visiting students to perform all the water tests themselves with water the students provide.