Testing for Water Pollutants in an Area with a Declining Salamander Population

Nathan050793

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I belong to a school group which works to educate about water conservation and raise money to build wells and provide running water to impoverished areas around the world. We also try to work in our community to provide water quality, etc.

Recently, we've been asked to check for pollutants/chemicals in the water at a local park, which seems to be experiencing a decrease in the local salamander population. I'm still a bit in the dark as to the details, but it seem like it may be a stream/creek environment, which leads me to believe we're dealing with Plethodontids, probably Eurycea bislineata and potentially Desmognathus sp.

I've been thinking that tests for heavy metals, chlorine/chloramine, or fertilizers would be the right way to go, however when it comes to Chemistry I'm not the most well-versed.

So here's where you all come in. What should we be testing for potentially? What sort of test kits should we be looking for? Obviously, the details are lacking, for which I apologize. I'll try to update this thread with more info as it comes in. Any advice to start off, though?

Thanks in advance!
 

SludgeMunkey

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The first test I would do is the Daphnia magna test. Simply release a few live Daphnia magna (an indicator species) into a sample of the water and see how long it takes them to die. Live Daphnia after a long period of time means testing for pollutants may be a waste of time.

As for substance specific tests, I am not familiar with any that are pollutant specific and readily available to the average person. I think a good list of things to look at would be copper, lead, phosphates, TDS/Turbidity, dissolved oxygen, total hardness, and pH. If a local university has a good lab, they may be able to do spectrographic or chromatograhic tests for you.

I heard a rumor there is a doctor of chemistry floating about these forums though...perhaps he can offer some insight...
 

Darkmaverick

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I believe the best person to ask is John. He is a doctorate in environmental chemistry/science i think.
 

Nathan050793

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I appreciate the input so far; the Daphnia test is certainly easy and possible. As I said before, I'll try and add to this when I hear a bit more about what's going on. Again, thanks for the input, and any more that may come in is greatly appreciated.
 

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Are you limited to tests for which you can purchase test kits easily? I wouldn't bother with chlorine, as that's very unlikely to be there in any significant amount. It might be worth testing for nitrate and phosphate, as these could indicate problems with fertilizers and/or detergents - and it's easy to buy test kits for both of these.

The Daphnia test sounds ideal. You may be able to get the people at Sach's to give you some advice, as they sell Daphnia specifically for this purpose.
Sachs Systems Aquaculture Welcomes You!
Don't forget that you'll need a positive control - some sort of water that you know for sure is safe and healthy for the daphnia. This way if they die, you'll know for sure if it was the water or something else that was wrong.
 

sean n dad

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Check with the local aquarium clubs in your area, you may be able to find someone who harvests Daphnia & you could get it from them cheap.
Ed
 

Nathan050793

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Are you limited to tests for which you can purchase test kits easily? I wouldn't bother with chlorine, as that's very unlikely to be there in any significant amount. It might be worth testing for nitrate and phosphate, as these could indicate problems with fertilizers and/or detergents - and it's easy to buy test kits for both of these.

The Daphnia test sounds ideal. You may be able to get the people at Sach's to give you some advice, as they sell Daphnia specifically for this purpose.
Sachs Systems Aquaculture Welcomes You!
Don't forget that you'll need a positive control - some sort of water that you know for sure is safe and healthy for the daphnia. This way if they die, you'll know for sure if it was the water or something else that was wrong.

Yes, most likely, we are limited to test kits which are easily accessible to the average person.

The tips about nitrate and phosphate, as well as the control aspect are great, thanks! (I had forgotten completely about the necessity of a control experiment). Additionally, I'll definitely have to check out Sach's.
 

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I really don't have much to add. I work for the second largest environmental testing company in the nation but I don't actually do any environmental testing whatsoever!

If it is a stream that you're sampling make sure that you sample lots of different areas. Look for tributaries and storm drains flowing into the main body. Beyond the phosphate, nitrate and daphnia tests I would recommend doing some pH tests. They're simple if your school already has a pH probe otherwise the aquarium test kit/scientific grade test strips could be used. If the water is terribly acidic or basic it might be a clue. It might not be a bad idea to tester similar local waters that are still considered healthy.

I don't know of any broad tests for heavy metals that are easily available. Most of the tests that could analyze heavy metal level or organic compounds in the water are pretty time consuming. HPLC (high performance liquid chromatography) should be able to detect (and maybe give clues to identity of) organics in the water and ICP-MS (inductively coupled plasma - mass spectroscopy) can detect heavy metals. Both of these techniques are great. Geek moment: ICP uses plasma at a temperature of nearly 10,000K which can vaporize almost any common element :eek:

If you're doing a presentation these might be interesting things to talk about as tools that can help.
 

Nathan050793

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Abrahm, I kid you not, I've been waiting for you to comment on this since I posted it (as I still recall your useful tips on my Chytrid paper). I was not let down. I'm thinking I have quite a few things to organize and plan now....
 

Abrahm

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Abrahm, I kid you not, I've been waiting for you to comment on this since I posted it (as I still recall your useful tips on my Chytrid paper). I was not let down. I'm thinking I have quite a few things to organize and plan now....

Aww, thanks Nathan :happy: That's one of the nicest things I've heard in a while.

You should know that if you want my help all you have to do is ask! Send me a PM or carrier pigeon.
 

JM29

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Hello.

If you're not concerned about particular pollutants, you can try this general method to evaluate the water of a pond or a river.
It requires a bit of knowledge of water invertebrates.
This method is regularly used by students and others.

Friendly.
JM
 

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JM29

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The use is easy :
- look for each of the 7 groups (from A to F),
- if you find some invertebrates of one group, stop on this line.
- count all the taxonomic units you can find. The richer it is, the bigger the score is (and the best it sounds).
 

hdonahue

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The first test I would do is the Daphnia magna test. Simply release a few live Daphnia magna (an indicator species) into a sample of the water and see how long it takes them to die. Live Daphnia after a long period of time means testing for pollutants may be a waste of time.

As for substance specific tests, I am not familiar with any that are pollutant specific and readily available to the average person. I think a good list of things to look at would be copper, lead, phosphates, TDS/Turbidity, dissolved oxygen, total hardness, and pH. If a local university has a good lab, they may be able to do spectrographic or chromatograhic tests for you.

I heard a rumor there is a doctor of chemistry floating about these forums though...perhaps he can offer some insight...


What accomidations do I need to preform the daphnia test? Just plastic cups with still water?
Also, any other "how to's" on these other test would be greatly appreciated!!
 

hdonahue

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Hello.

If you're not concerned about particular pollutants, you can try this general method to evaluate the water of a pond or a river.
It requires a bit of knowledge of water invertebrates.
This method is regularly used by students and others.

Friendly.
JM

Can someone provide pictures for the invertebrates in JM's attached file?
Thanks!!
 
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