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Testing the waters

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published May 11, 2011

 Smith Middle School Ecology Club members, from the left, Soumeeeka Koneru, Rohini Verma and Hemali Mistry test the Rouge River for velocity, pollution and insect life May 4.

Smith Middle School Ecology Club members, from the left, Soumeeeka Koneru, Rohini Verma and Hemali Mistry test the Rouge River for velocity, pollution and insect life May 4.

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BIRMINGHAM — Smith Middle School ecology club students donned waders and slogged into the Rouge River May 4 at a spot off Big Beaver, near Woodward, to scoop creepy-crawlies out of the mucky river bottom.

They and teacher Nancy Klein were delighted with their catch — adult beetles, caddisflies, stonefly nymphs and water pennies.

Klein explained that the students classify the benthic macroinvertebrates, or bottom-dwelling aquatic bugs, into three groups based on an organism’s sensitivity to measure the quality of the water.

“We are always delighted to find the sensitive sector,” Klein said.

For a decade, Klein and the Smith ecology club have waded into the Rouge River each spring and fall, although they only made the trip in the spring this year, due to cutbacks. Klein said a grant from Target offset costs for the club to participate in the testing this year.

Students from Troy High School tested the water at a site near Coolidge and Long Lake that same day.

Randi Fires, assistant program manager for education the Friends of the Rouge, a nonprofit organization created in 1986 to raise awareness about the need to clean up the Rouge River, said 32 groups from schools within the Rouge watershed participated in the river testing May 4. The watershed has four main branches with 126 river miles, and more than 400 lakes, impoundments and ponds. More than 1.5 million people in 48 municipalities live within the watershed.

She said the students test for water velocity and depth, pollution and insects.

“Overall, in the past 24 years students have been testing we’ve seen dissolved oxygen levels get better, meaning the water is healthier, and E. coli counts have dropped,” Fires said.

Smith Middle School ecology club members are very green-minded, Klein said.

“These are the kids that show up weekly to assist in the various recycling efforts we have at this school. We currently are recycling ink cartridges, cellphones, paper in all the classrooms (and) offices; soft drink containers from the lunch room, as well as paper bags. We collect aluminum can tops for the Ronald MacDonald House, and we are currently collecting plastic bottle tops for Aveda, who will be recycling them for a third-world project.

“To date, our water testing for nearly the past 10 years has shown great results — very little if any pollutants to report,” Klein said. “This is great news given that our water testing site is in a neighborhood where there could be a high potential level of phosphate, which would come from mass fertilization.

“Students understand that this is a precious resource and is very important for a sustainable future,” she added.

“It’s interesting to see what animals survive in what water conditions,” said Smith sixth-grader Gustavo D’Mello.

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