†††††††††††††††††† The Effect of a Paper Factory on Chlorine Levels in the Milwaukee River
Christina Asetamy and Lauren Hart
We tested the Milwaukee River for chlorine levels to see if water near the drainage port of a paper factory had higher levels of chlorine compared to 200 meters both up and downstream. We found that the water nearby the drainage port had a chlorine level that was 0.5, while the water 200 meters upstream and downstream from the drainage port had a level of 0.
Keywords: paper mill, chlorine, river, water, pollution
††††††††† In the United States there are 555 million manufacturers of pulp and paper. The processes to make paper can produce contaminates such as chlorine.† One of the processes used when making paper includes bleaching (Environmental Protection Agency, 2002). †Bleaching is the step that brightens the paper pulp to a bright white color, which is the standard for most paper products.† The bleaching process produces chlorine and can get into the water in surrounding areas (Environmental Protection Agency, 1997).† Chlorine may be in the water as free chlorine, which is the most toxic form to fish (Brungs, 1973).† Water that is used to flush the chlorine from paper during the bleaching process contains toxins which cannot be broken down by bacteria and can accumulate in the tissues of animals, such as fish.† The levels of toxins increase in animals as you go up the food chain, which can cause serious health problems for many animals (Environmental Protection Agency, 2002). †There are some alternative ways to bleach pulp and paper; one is by using chlorine dioxide. Like chlorine, chlorine dioxide can be used to whiten paper. The difference is that chlorine dioxide can be broken down by bacteria, thereby reducing chlorine build-up in animals (Ali and Sreekrishnan, 2001). We hypothesized that river water nearby and downstream from a paper mill drainage port would have higher levels of chlorine compared to river water upstream from a paper mill drainage port.
Materials and Methods
On November 3, 2012 at 1000 we conducted our study at the East Bank Trail on the Milwaukee River, 81 meters west of the Wisconsin Paperboard Corporation located at 1514 E. Thomas Ave, Milwaukee WI 53202.† We chose three sites to test, one 200 meters upstream from the drainage port, at the drainage port and 200 meters downstream from the drainage port. ††We began by locating the drainage port from the paper factory into the river, and walked 200 meters upstream to our first testing site, located at 43.064018N 87.893053W.† We took 10 samples from each of the three sites, with each sample being 10 cm apart from each other, to get a total of 30 samples. Coordinates were obtained using GPS Tape Measure (TAPPIAPPS; May, 2012, Samsung Galaxy I). We used testing chlorine strips (AquaChek Brand, 1242ALBFR3/12), with a scale from 0-10, low to high level.† At the first site, we dipped 10 chlorine strips 5 cm below the surface of the water, each chlorine strip was 10 cm apart from each other. We waited 15 seconds before reading each strip and then compared the color results of each strip to the chlorine level guide on the back of the AquaChek bottle. Afterward, we recorded the chlorine levels of each strip into a table and moved to the next site.† We walked 200 meters south to the drainage port, located at 43.062190N 87.892629W and took 10 more samples, following the same procedure as the first testing site.† Finally, we walked another 200 meters south, downstream from the drainage port, located at 43.060478N 87.893481W to collect the final 10 samples, again following the same procedure as the prior two testing sites. †We analyzed the data using a tail 1, type-3 test T-test on Excel© for Windows 2007©.†
There was a difference of chlorine levels between the location at the paper factory drainage port and the locations 200 meters upstream and downstream (Fig. 1).† However, since the locations 200 meters away from the drainage port were all zero, a p-value could not be calculated. All of the samples at the drainage port had chlorine levels of 0.5 with no standard deviation.† All of the samples 200 meters upstream and downstream from the drainage port had chlorine levels of 0 with no standard deviation.
Figure 1.† Mean of the Chlorine Levels at the drainage port and 200 meters up/downstream.
Our data refuted the hypothesis that river water nearby and downstream from a paper mill drainage port would have higher levels of chlorine compared to river water upstream from a paper mill drainage port.† Although all of the samples at the drainage port showed chlorine levels of 0.5, there was no chlorine downstream which is why our hypothesis was refuted.† The data showed there was no chlorine present either upstream or downstream from the paper mill drainage port.† Even though the paper mill drainage port samples had a chlorine level of 0.5; it must be emphasized that this is a very low level of chlorine. As a result of the sites 200 meters upstream and downstream from the paper mill drainage port having chlorine levels of 0, statistical testing could not be calculated to obtain a p-value.†
Our data were similar to the findings of Ali and Sreekrishnan (2001), who discussed that totally chlorine-free bleaching (TCF) has become a more common practice used by many pulp and paper mills since the early 1990ís, whereby chlorine and chlorine dioxide is removed from the bleaching process. This may be due to the environmental pressures of eliminating toxins produced by chlorine that are released into aquatic systems during the bleaching and washing process of paper-making.† Additionally, quality bleaching can still be obtained using pressurized oxygen, other bleaching chemicals less hazardous than chlorine, or certain enzymes (Ali and Sreekrishnan, 2001).†
A reason for our findings may be related to the day we gathered our research or the possibility that we misread the chlorine strips at the site of the drainage port.† It is possible that this paper mill may still uses low levels of chlorine dioxide, a technique known as elemental chlorine-free bleaching (Ali and Sreekrishnan, 2001), but did not release any wastewater into the Milwaukee River the specific day or days prior to us gathering our data.† On the contrary, since we found there was chlorine only at the site of the drainage port, we may have misinterpreted the color of the chlorine strips when we compared them to the chlorine level guide.
Some limitations to our study included only being able to access certain points along the river, and having access to only chlorine strips as a way to measure the levels of chlorine in the water.† If we were to repeat this study, we would test the same sites 3 days out of the week, over a period of 2 or 3 weeks.† We would also use a different chlorine testing method if possible. This may help us to obtain more accurate results as well as determine whether chlorine is or is not consistently found in the Milwaukee River near the Wisconsin Paperboard Corporation.† It would be interesting to study this experiment near other paper mill locations that sit along a river bank.† We could compare the chlorine levels from the Milwaukee River near the Wisconsin Paperboard Corporation to the chlorine levels found in rivers located near other paper mills. The results may also give insight into the bleaching procedures being utilized at each paper mill based on the levels of chlorine found in the water near each location.
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