Monday, September 22, 2008


Forty HHS science students on a class trip found that a newly-installed iron-collecting system has made a dramatic difference in the amount of dissolved iron in a local section of the Ompompanoosuc River. Students from the Advanced Placement Environmental Science (APES) class visited the waters near the Elizabeth Mine in South Strafford, VT which was closed in 1958. Their goal was to determine the impact of acid drainage from the mine on water quality and the biota (life forms) in the nearby river. This year's visit, HHS's first since the US Environmental Protection Agency installed the collector, measured dissolved iron at the rate of 100 pounds per day contrasted to 1,500 pounds per day measured on last year's visit. The photo showing bright orange water was taken in September 2007; the other photo shows the same spot in September 2008.

Kelsey Nichols, class of 2009, writes: "We went to the Ompompanoosuc River near Copperas Brook where you can see acid mine drainage coating the rocks orange from the iron. The class took samples of metals in the river water and tested for copper and turbidity. We'd practiced in the classroom how to do these tests. We caught invertebrates in a net -- mayflies, stoneflies and caddis flies. Then we went upriver to analyze the water in a part of the river that's away from mine drainage. We also went to top of the 40-acre pile of tailings from the mine."

The students gathered specimens of bottom-dwelling life and macro-invertebrates. Now, back in the classroom, they're analyzing the effects of lower amounts of dissolved iron on the river's life-forms. (At right Yukun Gao, class of 2009, measures the alkalinity of the water at the impact site with a digital titrator and pH meter.)