The Importance of Citizen Water Testing

A recent news story out of Charlotte, North Carolina profiles Mountain Island Lake, a significant source of drinking water for the nearby Charlotte metro area, and a young 6th grade student’s science project. The lake, a popular recreational space for local residents, is also the site of a coal-fired power plant operated by Duke Energy. Although the power plant is closing down in April, concerns still exist about the polluting potential of the plant’s coal ash ponds, which drain directly into the lake by seeping through the ground and through outfall streams.

These concerns inspired one of the younger members of the community, sixth grader Anna Behnke, to test the lake’s water for arsenic with a home test kit for her science project at Mountain Island Charter School. As the story reveals, Anna found that levels of arsenic in the water entering the lake from the outfall of the coal ash pond were around twenty times the EPA limit for safe drinking water.

This story highlights the importance of getting involved with monitoring the water quality of the water sources that we depend upon. Anna, her family, the people living around Mountain Island lake, and those who derive their drinking water from the lake all have a stake in the quality, or lack thereof, of the lake’s water. In the case of this young woman, her sincere concern for the lake’s water quality also came from her and her family’s recreational use of the lake. As this story indicates, testing your local waterways is an excellent way to become actively involved in the protection and enjoyment of those waterways, while also raising public awareness over both the quality of our waterways and the pollutants that threaten them.

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