As part of our commitment to the Puerto Rican community, four positions were opened for senior students to perform a research project to help the island in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Science teacher Marcel Torres has the task of supervising the selected students – Diego Rosado, Fernanda Rodríguez, Mónica Rivera and Ricardo Ortiz – who will be joining the team of Gabriela Handall and Andrea Salellas. These students will be conducting a research project to determine the water quality in rivers of Puerto Rico, emphasizing the detection of pathogenic bacteria and fecal coliforms.
Due to the pass of Hurricane Maria over Puerto Rico, residents of the city of San Juan have no water or electricity service. Many of them had to obtain water from nearby rivers for their basic needs like cooking, personal hygiene, and cleaning. Our students decided to investigate the water quality of these rivers, focusing on pathogenic bacteria, because they are very concerned about the detrimental effects on the health of those citizens.
During the month of October, the students performed their first chemical tests and habitat assessments in two rivers located in San Juan. On their first sampling, they noticed that wooden stairs were placed on the way to the rivers and it was inferred that those rivers are currently being used to obtain water by people who live nearby. After performing field studies and obtaining the first chemical results, students will continue with phase 2 (determining the presence of pathogenic bacteria and fecal coliforms).
This research is possible thanks to the support of the VT EPSCoR Center for Workforce Development and Diversity Program of the St. Michael’s College, who sent the protection suits and the protocols of water quality to our students. Also, the Pontifical Catholic University of Ponce will be helping students perform and analyze the tests for the detection of pathogenic bacteria on the researched rivers. Special thanks to both institutions!