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Westminster College students present water quality research to watershed group

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Posted on Thursday, November 29, 2018

NEW WILMINGTON, PA – Westminster College environmental science and chemistry majors studying the effectiveness of a passive treatment system in Butler County have found that the actions are working, according to the students’ presentation at the Nov. 8 meeting of the Slippery Rock Watershed Coalition (SRWC) at Jennings Environmental Education Center.

The students have been examining the passive treatment site at the Erico Bridge Restoration Area designed to address abandoned mine drainage which has been polluting local streams with acidic water and high concentrations of metals.

The students—including senior environmental science majors Andrew Kearney and Jessica Grady, junior chemistry major Emma Pollock, sophomore environmental science majors Erin Ward and Victoria Libson and first-year environmental science major Sara Small—are part of the Lawrence and Mercer Alliance for Aquatic Resources Monitoring (ALLARM) program based at Westminster.

Kearney, Grady, Pollock, Ward and Libson visited the Erico Bridge site on Oct. 5 with two members of the SRWC where they conducted preliminary water testing in the field. Collected water samples were analyzed in Westminster’s labs.

The students’ lab and field results indicated that the passive treatment system is working, reducing the acidity and the metals in the abandoned mine drainage.

“The presentation to the watershed group helped me to see how Westminster has a strong commitment to meaningful research for the surrounding community,” said Small.

The study was completed as part of a service learning project in which the students apply the skills that they have learned in their environmental science and chemistry classes to address a real-world problem.

For more information, please contact Dr. Helen Boylan, professor of chemistry and director of the Center for the Environment at Westminster College, at 724-946-6293 or

Top photo: Cliff Denholm, left, of the Slippery Rock Watershed Coalition and Westminster Professor of Chemistry Dr. Helen Boylan, far right, with students, from left, Emma Pollock, Jessica Grady and Victoria Libson at the Erico Bridge site. Bottom photos from left: Emma Pollock and Jessica Grady test water in the field.