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Silverton Lab Writeup

Claire Bedford & Chloe Walsh

Introduction/Task Statement:
On October 12, 2017, the junior class at Animas High School went to Silverton in
order to investigate water quality. Students were separated into groups of three, Chloe being
with Lydia and Megan and Claire with Baylee, Janey and Saige. Both of us worked at Cement
Creek at 1:20-2:30PM, being some of the last students to take samples and test the water. In
these groups, we investigated three streams that come together to create the Animas river
and determined acidity of the creek (pH), how well the stream conducts electricity
(conductivity), how warm or cold it is in degrees celsius (temperature), how clear the water
in the stream is (turbidity), and how fast the water flows in cubic feet per second
(discharge). We recorded the collected data on a printed paper before entering it into
Google sheets and creating a pivot table. The pivot table calculated the average, maximum,
minimum, range, median, standard deviation, and weighted average. Average is calculated
when you add all of the values together then divide by the total numbers in the data set. The
average is the central number in a set of data. Maximum and minimum are the largest and
smallest numbers in the data set. Range can then be used by subtracting the maximum from
the minimum and finding the difference. Median is the number that is in the middle of the
data set when ordered chronologically. Standard deviation and weighted average are more
advanced measurements. Standard deviation is calculated by taking each number, adding it
to the average and squaring it then finding the average of all the numbers together before
taking the square root of that newly calculated average. Weighted average is a calculated
average where the numbers in the data set contribute a set amount to the average. You
calculate weighted average by multiplying the number by the percent it contributes then
adding all the numbers up. These measurements are important because they all give you
values that can be useful in different ways. We calculated these things because they are what
determine water quality accurately and also what the USGS calculates and we compared our
recorded data to the data they recorded and put on their website to determine accuracy.
Visual Representation:

Predicted Values and Data Values Collected

Student Predictions USGS Data

pH 5.55 6.9

Discharge 45.79 ft/s 103 ft/s

Temperature 7.02 Degrees Celsius 4 Degrees Celsius

Conductivity 1,999.3 514

Table 1: The predicted values of the Animas River and USGS website data

Difference Between USGS Data Value Predicted Value

pH -1.35

Discharge -57.21 ft/s

Temperature -3 degrees celsius

Conductivity -1,485.3
Table 2: The difference between the predicted values of the Animas River and USGS website data
Table 3: Recorded data values of temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, conductivity, and
streamflow recorded by Animas High School students
Temperature pH Conductivity Discharge

Median 9.5 3.67 983.5 30.57

6.9 7.04 427 46

4.7 6.3 313 24.4

Total Average 6.95 5.5 699.5 26.44

Average 9.48 3.62 989 28.94

6.88 7.05 427 49.97

4.72 6.35 310 20.6

Total Average 7.18 5.55 664.13 32.75

Standard .23 .12 21.24 7.88


.13 .05 N/A 25.53

.18 1.13 7 6.66

Total Average 2.05 1.67 349.71 18.16

Min & Max 9.1 - 9.8 3.45 - 3.7 972 - 1017 19 - 35.62

6.7 - 7 7 - 7.1 427 - 427 26.65 - 77.25

4.5 - 4.9 5.27 - 7.52 302 - 315 12.91 - 24.49

Total Average 4.5 - 9.8 3.45 - 7.52 302 - 1017 12.91 - 77.25
Cement Creek
Mineral Creek
Upper Animas
Table 4: Pivot table representing the median, average, standard deviation, minimum, and maximum
of all three creeks.
Students used prior introduced tools to conduct the process of testing water quality.
We used a current meter to determine discharge. The current meter looks similar to a
turbine and whenever you plug it into a device it measures what velocity the turbine is
pushed by the stream. We calibrated the device to measure discharge in cubic feet per
second. We used a pH probe to measure the pH level of Cement Creek. We placed the probe
into the steam to get a base pH, then we used two substances with known pH levels on both
sides of the pH we saw and calibrated the device in which the pH probe was connected to
recognize the known values. We then placed the probe back into the stream and used the
calculation seen after calibration was conducted. To calculated temperature, we simply used
a temperature probe and placed it into Cement creek and recorded the calculation in celsius
that appeared on the device. Conductivity was easily calculated by using a probe and
recording the value given from the device. Turbidity was calculated by calibrating the device
to a known turbidity of 100, then collecting a sample of Cement creek in one of the small
glass containers and placing it into the device before recording the calculation.
In order to determine which technique to use for each calculation, we looked at the
logistics of what the calculation was for and what would make the most sense whenever the
streams combine into one. We wrote out our work on the table with a dry erase marker and
used it to help other groups build off of what we knew. Chloe and I decided that it was the
best logical decision to calculate the discharge by adding the max calculated result from each
stream then calculate the average of that number. For all of the other calculations, we used a
different technique. We eliminated any outliers then calculated the average. This is how we
got Temperature, conductivity, and pH. After talking with Steve, we decided that we would
not make calculations for turbidity due to faulty data collected by students. We then
compared our calculated results to the ones posted on the USGS site but unfortunately the
detectors were frozen over so we had to use previously and prior recorded data for pH and
Using our first technique of eliminating outliers then finding average for all but the
discharge where we added max then calculated average, we determined the following;
temperature- 7 degrees celsius, pH- 5.55, conductivity- 1,999.3, discharge- 45.79 ft/s. We then
compared our results with the posted USGS calculations and realized that all of the
calculations except pH were off. USGS calculations were the following; temperature- 4
degrees celsius on the 12th, pH- 6.9 on the 10th, conductivity- 530 on the 18th and 514 on the
10th, discharge- 103 on the 12th. We believe that our results were so far off because we used
average whenever the streams are contributing different amounts of water into the Animas,
which would mean the levels wouldnt be completely even. If we could determine how much
each stream is contributing to making the animas then we could have calculated the
weighted average of discharge, conductivity and and temperature then those results might
have been more accurate.

This experiment was very fun and interactive. Students got to take a day off and get
away from some possibly stressful things while still doing something educational and
purposeful. Also, this lab gave students a chance to test water quality together before doing
after school water quality tests and work through the process with other students before
having to conduct the test that has an affect on the actual school. This whole lab was calming
yet still a mind stretcher. Students didnt have to strain but they were able to learn new
material that will help them in class. The setup of the lab made it easy since it wasnt the
whole junior class doing the tests at the same time. We also were able to use communication
skills in order to make a whole result. I think that if this lab were to be done again, I would
make more time for actually working and helping the community/environment (like the
weed pulling and actual testing) and less on the explaining. Many students feel the
knowledge about the mine was irrelevant, though it was fascinating and intriguing. It was a
fun experiment overall and the lab testing itself was just the right difficulty level, not too
easy but not hard. However, the write up was very stressful because of after school life such
as family, work, and responsibility commitments.

Water quality is very important in the community and even the world. Water is
essential to all life and understanding what happens and how it reacts are keys to
maintaining its ability to sustain us. Events such as the Gold King mine spill were very
treacherous to the quality yet valuable to understanding and learning in order to prevent
future catastrophes. Discharge is important because it lets people know how much water is
going into certain places, in this area it helped determine if the amount of water from the
three streams that create the Animas are remaining consistent so that the Animas doesn't dry
up. Temperature is important to know in water quality because being too hot or too cold
affects the discharge which results in reduction or flooding. Turbidity is super important
because it helps us determine how much dirt and soot are in the water. If water turbidity is
super high then that would mean it is not able to be consumed due to this pollution. pH is
possibly the most important factor in water quality because it has affects on so many factors
in the environment. If a pH value is very low or very high then it is acidic or basic and not
safe for human consumption, this is because our bodies have basic chemicals that would
negatively react to these acidic or other super basic substances. Also, if the pH is on either
side of the scale, then it pulls and changes compounds of metals and minerals out of the
surrounding environment. If conductivity is super high (around 32,000 microsiemens or
higher) then it would be contaminated and not safe for human consumption which is
suitable for 12,000 microsiemens. Whenever the conductivity in your blood is lower than the
substance consumed, then your stomach will start pulling water from your blood and
digestive system and cause you to become dehydrated and also cause other health issues like
kidney stones.
Education about water quality is essential and finding people who are interested in
water quality should be a priority in order to maintain order and balance. Holding classes for
the community and educating them on how to use tools to maintain these important factors
in water quality would be a very helpful tool that could be used. The USGS base is a valuable
resource in the San Juan/La Plata community because it keeps constant measurements on
the streams and the Animas river. This information will be a great use to understand how
certain factors affect others in an ecosystem. This data can also be used as an explanation
and evidence if something were to happen to the Animas river or even the three streams.
The constant research and observation of water is valuable and should be continued to
better understand and monitor what is happening in all living organisms highest necessity.

Self Assessment:
We believe that we should get an A with a 96%. Claire talked to outside people to
better understand the effects that conductivity and pH would have on a person and used the
data personally collected to argue as to why the values we used were important to water
quality. The data was also described in detail by stating the microsiemens. Also, the paper is
very well organized and goes into great detail explaining concepts and definitions. The one
critique that we would improve upon is spending more time on making a plan for what
method we used to make our predictions.