Kayunta Johnson – Winters
November 25, 1998
Detecting Water Quality
Organic nitrogen is found in proteins, and is continually recycled by plants. Nitrogen – containing compounds act as nutrients in streams, rivers and reservoirs. The major routes of entry of nitrogen into bodies of water through municipal and industrial wastewater, septic tanks, feed lot discharges and animal wastes (Rowe, 1998). Because nitrites can easily be turned into nitrates, the oxygen content is lower because the process uses oxygen (Miller, 1996). Since there are waste dumps in Lake Michigan, I predict it will have the highest nitrogen and phosphorus contents and the lowest oxygen contents. I predict that the lagoon will have the second largest nitrate and phosphate content and the second lowest oxygen content. The stream will have the third largest nitrate and phosphate content, while the tap water will contain the smallest amount of nitrates and phosphates. Because there are no bacteria to turn nitrites into nitrates, the oxygen content for the tap water will be the highest. I tested my hypothesis with the following method.
Once a week, the oxygen content, the nitrate and phosphate and pH will be tested for Lake Michigan, Jackson Park Lagoon, Jackson Park Stream and tap water at room temperature. The results did not support my hypothesis. The nitrate, phosphate and oxygen content for each water site were very close.
Nitrogen is one of the most abundant elements. About eighty per cent of the air we breathe is nitrogen. It is found in the cells of all living things and is a major component of proteins. Organic nitrogen is found in proteins and is continually recycled by plants and animals (Miller, 1996). Nitrogen containing compounds act as nutrients in streams, rivers and reservoirs. The major routes of entry of nitrogen into bodies of water are municipal and industrial wastewater, septic tanks, feed lot discharges, and animal wastes runoffs from fertilized and agricultural fields (Rowe, 1998). Bacteria and water quickly converts nitrites to nitrates and this process uses up oxygen (Miller, 1996).
Waste products undergo a process of decomposition by bacteria to ammonia, which further oxidize to nitrites and nitrates. Ammonia is converted to nitrites by Nitrosomonas bacteria, the nitrites produced is further converted to nitrates by Nitrobacter bacteria. Nitrates are absorbed by plants as food completing the nitrogen cycle (Tibbets, 1998).
Lake Michigan has waste dumps that can probably diffuse waste products into the rest of the lake. This can cause water pollution and the water quality would decrease. I predict that Lake Michigan will have the highest nitrogen and phosphorus contents and the lowest oxygen contents. I predict that the Jackson Park Lagoon will have the second largest nitrate and phosphate contents and the second lowest oxygen content. The stream will have the third largest nitrate and phosphate content and the tap water will contain the smallest amount of nitrate and phosphates. Because there are no bacteria to turn nitrites to nitrates, the oxygen content for the tap water will be the highest.
Water naturally contains less than one milligram of nitrate – nitrogen per liter and is not a major source of exposure. Higher levels indicate that the water has been contaminated. Federal laws set the maximum allowable level of nitrate – nitrogen in public drinking water at ten milligrams per liter (10 ppm) (Damgaard, 1998).
It is important to monitor water quality, because it affects food and health of people. For example, nitrates and nitrites are metabolized in the human stomach into nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic and corrosive to the system. At forty – five parts per million, it can cause blue baby syndrome, also known as methemoglbinemia (Rowe, 1998). This condition is called blue baby syndrome because the skin appears blue – gray or lavender in color. This color change is caused by lack of oxygen in the blood (Ford, 1994).
The water sites that I compared were the stream and the lagoon at Jackson Park, Lake Michigan and tap water. The samples were collected in clean sixteen ounce cups and then covered with a top and aluminum foil to keep light out. I collected the tap water sample from my home on the northwest side of Milwaukee. It came from my kitchen sink. The tap water sat at room temperature before the YSI 85 instrument was used to test for temperature and oxygen content. The samples sat at room temperature over night before the orthophosphate, nitrate and pH tests were performed. The directions for the orthophosphate and nitrate tests are in the test kit case.
I traveled to the water sites once a week and used the YSI 85 instrument to get the temperature of the water, and the oxygen content. The directions for the YSI 85 were followed closely. The directions stayed in the YSI 85 case. Also the atmospheric temperature was noted each day I took samples.
My results did not support my hypothesis. My results showed that the nitrogen and phosphate contents for each water sample were very similar. Their averages were all less than .2 ppm. I thought that Lake Michigan would have the highest nitrate and phosphate content, but it did not. Perhaps it is because it has a cleaning system that keeps it from being polluted. My results showed that the lagoon had average oxygen content of 86.65 per cent and 7.83 ppm. The stream had average oxygen content of 96.53 per cent and7.01 ppm. Lake Michigan had average oxygen content of 85.58 per cent and 7.86 ppm. The tap water had average oxygen content of 121.46 percent and 7.39 ppm. The oxygen percentages support my hypothesis, but I believe that to totally be sure that it is supported I need to take into consideration the animals that are in the lake, stream and the lagoon. Right now, I do not have the resources to do this research. The oxygen content in parts per million does not support my hypothesis.
Rowe, Jack. 1998. Organic Nitrates/Nitrites.http://www.dircon.co.uk/midnet/organic/nitrates.htm
Miller, Dan. 1996. Water Quality and the Nitrogen Cycle.http://wwww2.klynas.com/koi_net/dan.html
Damgaard, Margie. 1998. Nitrate.http://www.dnr.stare.wi.us/org/water/dwg/nitrate.htm
Ford, Paula. 1994. How to Make Sure Your Water is Pure. Country Journal. 21:15.
Tibbets, Debby. 1998. Water Quality. Wysiwyg://31/http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Hills/9613/water.html
Kayunta Johnson - Winters
Ecology 2, BI 491
November 30, 1998
Research Project on Water Quality