Valparaiso University students have partnered with the Environmental Protection Agency and the City of Valparaiso to help improve water quality at the Thorgren Detention Basin on Roosevelt Road.

As part of Chemistry 116: Applications of Chemistry in Engineering, 22 civil engineering students have been monitoring water quality throughout the spring semester. On Thursday, April 26, the Valpo students were joined by over 40 fifth-graders from Thomas Jefferson Elementary School.

“The grade school kids worked with infiltrometers, which measure how fast the water soaks into the ground,” Thomas Goyne, associate professor of chemistry, said. “All of that data will go into a spreadsheet that will calculate hydraulic conductivity of the soil.”

Goyne said that the elementary students benefit from this kind of activity because they are able to see real-world applications of what they are learning. The value gained from this kind of hands-on experience is also beneficial to college students.

“The benefit to the Valpo students is that they’re actually doing experiments where the results are useful and valuable, rather than something that they are just doing for a grade,” Goyne said. “Anytime you can do that, it is really helpful because people are motivated to do things that are real, especially when you’re doing something to help the environment. The project is related to the students’ major and they are going to be taking environmental engineering next year, so this is going to help prepare them for the class.”

Goyne said The project will help improve water quality. The measurements that the students are currently taking will lay the groundwork for a larger restoration project that will take place this summer, through a $607,000 grant from the EPA for improvements to the area. Most of the rainwater that falls in Valparaiso ends up in Lake Michigan, so by improving water quality at the Thorgren Detention Basin, the lake water quality will also be improved.

“The EPA wants to improve the water quality, but they also want to educate the community as to what it is that is needed for good water quality,” Goyne said. “If they just come in and spend the money and change it, people will drive by and realize that it looks different but nobody will really understand why.”

Goyne hopes that involving students in the project will help to promote community awareness and involvement.

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