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Ossining High Students Test Hudson Water For Bacteria

A team from Ossining High School collects water samples from the Hudson River. Photo Credit: Contributed
The water samples are taken to a high school laboratory for testing. Photo Credit: Contributed
The Ossining High team has been collecting water samples since June. Photo Credit: Contributed
The water samples are analyzed. Photo Credit: Contributed

OSSINING, N.Y. -- A teacher and a student entered the Hudson River at Louis Engel Waterfront Park wearing olive green waders one recent morning, hoping that someday it will be commonplace for people to splash around in the water while in bathing suits.

Artie Carlucci, an Ossining High School environmental science and biology teacher, used an orange ruler to measure a spot in the water that was 30 centimeters deep. Eileen Tacuri, who starts her sophomore year in the fall, filled a small plastic container with water and placed it in a cooler.

Back at the lab 15 minutes later, Tacuri poured the sample into a graduated cylinder and added distilled water. She emptied a capsule containing a growth nutrient into the solution and poured it into a foil and plastic tray with Carlucci’s help. Tacuri  used a machine to seal the tray and distribute the sample into its dozens of wells.

Carlucci and Tacuri, along with environmental science and biology teacher Bridget Baumann and four other students are working with Riverkeeper to test for the presence of Enterococcus bacteria, which are an indicator of fecal contamination. Fecal matter can carry with it pathogens that make people sick.

Riverkeeper, an environmental group, has been taking samples from a patrol boat near Ossining beach each month during the recreational season for nine years.

The OHS team members have collected samples since June and will continue through October. They may do the testing again next year.

Baumann said OHS Principal Josh Mandel approached Carlucci and her about collaborating with Riverkeeper in some way. The teachers and parent Suzie Ross, a Hudson Riverkeeper ambassador, developed the water-testing project in cooperation with the organization last summer.

After collecting their weekly sample, students return 24 hours later to observe them under a fluorescence viewer. The samples that are positive for Enterococcus glow blue.

As of late July, there had been only one reading that showed the water was unsafe for swimming. State Sen. David Carlucci, D-Rockland/Westchester, secured funding for the district to buy some of the testing equipment needed. The Ossining MATTERS Education Foundation contributed about $5,400 for testing supplies.

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