San Gabriel River Research
Scout Gockel ’22, Nicole Rajtak ’22
Advisor: Rebecca Edwards, Visiting Assistant Professor of Environmental Engineering, Stacie Brown, Director of First-Year Biology Laboratories, and Willis Weigand, Director of General Chemistry Labs
Recently, Georgetown’s San Gabriel River has been involved in a controversy surrounding the new Liberty Hill Wastewater Treatment Facility. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has documented several violations regarding the facility’s discharge of effluent into the river, and residents speculate that this contamination is to blame for concerning changes in the river’s overall appearance. In an effort to determine the extent of the contamination, student lead teams will collect water quality data from a total of five locations, for two consecutive seasons. Two sites are upstream of the facility, another is directly downstream, and the last two are farther downstream, in Georgetown. At each site, the following parameters will be recorded: nitrate concentration, phosphate concentration, and dissolved oxygen concentration. Most importantly, samples of fecal coliform bacteria and aquatic macroinvertebrates will be collected from each site and counted/identified. Macroinvertebrates are significant bio-indicators of water quality, and they provide a bigger picture of the river’s health over time. This ongoing program not only monitors the quality of the San Gabriel, but also raises awareness of the wastewater controversy, and provides Southwestern students with a unique opportunity to conduct field research outside of class.