Monday, May 5, 2008

SXU students test river water near Mineral Point, Wis.; Honors students travel to Pecatonica River to practice water conservation techniques

Chicago (May 5, 2008) A group of Saint Xavier University students traveled to Mineral Point, Wis. recently to conduct fieldwork examining water quality and researching possible pollution in a branch of the Pecatonica.

As part of an SXU honors class dedicated to water conservation, students tested water on farm land for oxygen levels, iron, phosphates, pH, alkalinity, chlorine, and other chemicals. Afterwards, students speculated on what effects cattle grazing, man-made fertilizers and other farming activities may have had on the river.

Justin Laxton, a sophomore from Madison, Wis., noted that future discussions surrounding the water quality of the Pecatonica will probably become more strained as various groups become involved, including farmers, new land owners, ecological activists and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how the next ten to fifteen years will be there,” Laxton said. “It will be one big clash.”

Another student in the class, Mike Noonan, wished that there had been additional time for testing. “I would like to see what kind of invertebrate is currently in the area.”
Students began the semester by taking samples of Southwest Chicago’s Lake Marion on the SXU campus, followed by the Little Calumet River in the south suburbs.

In the classroom, Biology Professor Tatiana Tatum taught students the biology and chemistry of water, as well as the historical politics of water ownership and management. Philosophy Professor Thomas Thorp taught the political and judicial background of how people own, regulate and distribute water. Students began locally by studying the history of the indigenous Potawatomi, Fox and Sauk Tribes and how they lived on the land and alongside the rivers.
As part of the course, students also took part in online activism by identifying and then studying some of the many groups devoted to protecting clean water around the city of Chicago and nationally.

After a semester of studying water management and conducting field work in the honors class, several students will accompany Tatum and Thorp to Southern Idaho in late June and early July. There, they will work alongside a local organization fighting to prevent mining pollution in area waters.

In early April, John Hart, of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition and Caribou County Clean Water Partnership, presented the annual SXU Honors Program Guest Lecture.
Contact: Joe Moore

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