L. Hunter Benedict
December 8, 2004
This semester I had the opportunity to work extensively on the Palouse Falls internship and have made considerable progress in reaching the goals of this internship. In the spring semester of 1999, Whitman Student Marieke Dusenbery began working on this internship with Sandra Cannon, a concerned Walla Walla citizen and outdoor enthusiast who organized the objectives of this internship for Whitman College . While hiking down to the water at Palouse Falls , Sandra and her daughter hoped to swim but instead found the water of Palouse Falls to be visually polluted and giving off a smelly chemical stench. Concerned with this, Sandra decided that an investigation into the cause and source of the pollution was in order. Five years ago Sandra set these goals with Marieke:
Identify pollutants and the levels at which they are present in the water,
Discover the source(s) of this pollution, and
Work to minimize them. (Dusenbery 1999)
The work done thus far by the four other interns who have worked on this project has focused and found results for objective number one. Both sets of interns had personal water samples analyzed or acquired results from the Department of Ecology (DOE). However, my critique of their testing is that neither group focused on any particular type of pollution. Marieke had her sample analyzed through Walla Walla Waste Water Treatment Plant for ammonia, nitrates and nitrites. But in reality this was only testing one type of pollution—nitrogen based pollutants. It is true, as Marieke indicated, that pollution of this kind may originate from agricultural runoff (fertilizers) and cause problems in freshwater rivers; however it is not as devastating as its other common fertilizer component—phosphorous. According to the Water Quality Criteria for Public Water Supply “the total phosphorous is of outstanding importance.” (WQC 53: 1968) Phosphorous, due to its higher reactivity potential with natural fresh water chemistry, is of greater concern then nitrogen. (i.e. when considering carbonate pH stabilizing systems and out of control algae blooms) Conversely, the other group (Elizabeth Cox and Miranda Marti) looked at too many types of pollution. They investigated organics (nitrates), PCB's ( Polychlorinated biphenyls ) , VOC's (Volatile Organic Compounds), toxic or carcinogenic trace elements (Radon), pH, turbidity, and fecal coliform counts. All of these are important substances to investigate because they all have harmful effects on the environment, but attempting to focus on so many different types of pollutants that come from the widest scope of sources seems to me impractical when concerning the 2 nd and 3 rd goals of this project—discover and minimize the source of a pollution source.
My aim in continuing this internship was help laid out by Sandra. Initially we decided that crucial steps in this internship include:
1) Locating a detailed map of the Palouse River with Palouse Falls so locating source point pollution areas could be mapped when found.
2) Locating one possible point source for pollution
3) Taking action to reduce the impact from one pollutant point source.
On 9/20/04 I amended the initial goals stated above by deciding to focus my attention to solely nitrogen and phosphorous based pollutants. I did this because these are most commonly associated with agricultural wastes and fertilizer runoff. These also are the pollutants that I, using the WQC report and the DOE as references, determined the most likely source for the visible pollution (in the form of out of control algae blooms) and the smells (associated with unnaturally high nitrogen and phosphorous levels). On 10/12/04 I went to Palouse Falls and took a water sample and with the collaboration with Professor Charles Drabek analyzed my sample for nitrates, nitrites, phosphates, and turbidity. My results show that there is unacceptable levels of phosphorous and nitrogen according to the WQC for freshwater recreational water ways. (results in back of report)
Accomplishments and Progress Made:
I have found U.S. Geological survey maps from Penrose Library of the Palouse River the Palouse Falls State Park and the river upstream of the Falls. (Individual Goal 1) I have also located a possible point source for pollution which is a small privately owned farm about 3/4 of a mile up the river from Palouse Falls . (Individual Goal 2) This is considered a possible point source for nitrogen and phosphorous due to the fact that livestock have direct access to the river for watering purposes. I even documented a cow in the water. Besides destroying the vegetation around the shores of the river and aiding in erosion, theses specific cows are sources for nitrogen and phosphorus entering the Palouse River , directly above the Falls. (I.e. nitrogen in excrement according to WQC) For step three I have completed a documentary for distribution to farmers in the area and I also contacted the DOE contact for WRIA 34 (Palouse) and asked him what was being done to reduce the effect of agricultural wastes and runoffs on the Palouse River . Although I emailed him on Dec 2, I have yet to receive a reply.
Outline of Accomplishments:
1) I focused the internship to a manageable topic: Agricultural wastes and runoff pollution.
2) I located USGS maps of Palouse River
3) I located a non-point pollution source. PPSL-1 is a farm that has uncontained livestock that have total access to the river.
4) I divided the research areas up for future interns so that this project can focus on one section at a time so that future work done is focused and thorough.
5) I made a movie to help future interns and for possible distribution to local farmers.
6) I conducted my own field test sample analyzation of the Palouse using the HACH method.
7) Also included Washington's Non-point Source Management Protocol for Agricultural wastes.
During my internship I have not had many hang-ups or problems finding the data I need. I even made a camping trip to Palouse State Park including campfire smors and a nice hike along the river while filming my documentary and obtaining water samples right above the falls. Collaboration with Charles Drabek was crucial and I learned the importance and benefits of getting help from knowledgeable individuals that can give significant insight. The DOE has been monitoring the Palouse River since the seventies and has all their data at this website http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/eap/fw_riv/rv_main.html#2 and I conducted almost of all my research here because they provide all the information I needed for my goals. This experience has been a lot of fun and I think because it has been so much fun, I have put a lot of extra effort into this project.
I hope this internship is worked on again in the future. Since I have provided a map that breaks up the Palouse River in sections I think it will be easier for interns to find one section and work specifically in that section so the project never gets too big to handle. I would definitely recommend obtaining the maps I found in the library () and determine a work area to focus on. I would recommend the next group focus on Pullman due to the fact the water there is considered very polluted and does not meet DOE standards. I would also contact Ross at DOE and use his professional advice when locating the local farms and ranchers that are polluting the Palouse. As for the objectives 2 and 3, work still needs to be done in sections B,C,D,and E (in appendix).
Department of Ecology
Water Quality Index, 1968
803 Valencia St.
Walla Walla, Wa (509) 525-8849
Results of my HACH test on CJ1: 10/12/04
(Sample right above Palouse Falls)
Turbidity 5 FAU (Formazin Attenuation Units)
Nitrite 0.024 mg/L
Phosphorous 0.3 mg/L
Nitrate 1.5~1.4 mg/L