Upper School students in 11th grade have been researching water during the first half of the school year.  On Aprill 11th, 2018 they hosted the 2nd Annual Water Symposium at New Roots, where they presented their research to peers, families, and local water protectors. This was an awesome opportunity for students to discover what’s possible when we set our intention on clean water for all people. They also developed an appreciation for the amount of work that local water protectors have invested in our Cayuga Lake Watershed. The organizations that joined us to learn from the students and share some of their own research were Toxics Targeting and the Water Resources Institute.

Key research shared by students were:

  • The shallow, south end of Cayuga Lake contains high levels of phosphorus, a contaminant from agricultural runoff and home use (in soaps and detergents). Phosphorus causes algae blooms because it is an essential nutrient for plants.
  • Lead, a neurotoxin and a +2 ion, is found in high levels in the soil at Ithaca Falls.
  • The dissolved oxygen in Cayuga Lake is currently okay for healthy, adult fish but could be problematic for baby fish. The dissolved oxygen levels are too low to support salmon, which were once found in Cayuga Lake when this land was mostly inhabited by the Cayugas.
  • The pH levels of the lake tend to fluctuate with the seasons.
  • Manganese was detected in small amounts in the water in Fall Creek, Ithaca Falls, and Cayuga Lake.

Key research shared by Toxics Targeting:

  • There are numerous toxic sites in Ithaca, and the Clean Water Act is not being fully enforced.
  • The toxic cyanobacteria bloom during the summer of 2017 was likely due to high phosphorus levels.
  • Oil and petroleum contamination was found up at Ithaca’s South Hill.
  • Lead in the soil near Ithaca Falls is hundreds of thousands of times higher than EPA acceptable levels

Key research shared by Water Resources Institute:

  • There are emerging contaminants in Cayuga Lake from pharmaceuticals and medicines. Often, the science of drug development moves faster than our ability to study the effect of these chemicals and their metabolites on the human body.
  • The level of emerging contaminants in Ithaca’s watershed remains unchanged with fluctuations of the school year. In other words, the level of emerging contaminant does not increase as we transition from the summer into the school year.