How Can We Clean Nitrogen Contaminated Water Organically and Sustainably?

By: Ethan L.
Year: 2022
School: Westminster High School
Grade: 11
Science Teacher: Huy Pham

There are a lot of farms that contain things like manure and fertilizer which contain a lot of water. The nitrogen rich runoff runs into nearby rivers. This is significant because these ultimately cause dead zones, or kill a lot of the biodiversity. The goal of this experiment is to find the most versatile and sustainable plant that can absorb an appropriate amount of nitrogen based on the environment. The student used homemade habitats out of soda bottles and simulate runoff by using a coffee filter filled with nitrogen rich water or fertilizer/manure, and then tested them on different intervals to measure their minuscule and long term effects.

Runoff containing deadly pesticides, such as fertilizer and other pollutants, has become increasingly problematic as it spills into streams, lakes, and other bodies of freshwater. The chief environmental problem of runoff is the usually high concentrations of toxic organic substances that were collected from land. Amongst these substances, nutrients from fertilizers, pesticides, and animal manure lead to excessive nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in bodies of water. As a result, those bodies of water become dead zones that bring about massive loss of biodiversity in the ecosystem. The main focus of this study will be regarding nitrogen. The purpose of this study is as follows: determining the aquatic plant with the highest efficiency in absorbing nitrogen from runoff. The findings can help improve methods of combating runoff by finding the best aquatic plants to introduce to the ecosystem that would best absorb the excess nitrogen from bodies of water polluted by runoff.

Based on our data, the Anubias Barteri will decrease the concentration of nitrogen in our manmade runoff the most, but it was tied with the Amazon Sword. The environments they were grown in were all indoors with no direct sunlight. It is important to note a habitat change on Day 2 for the Amazon Sword and Water Wisteria, the possibility of the strips malfunctioning, and that the plants were not measured at exactly 9:30 each day. All of these inconsistencies regarding our confounding variables may have created some level of error in our data. During our first experiment, we ignored the fact that the soil was already nitrogen infested and our data had little to no change. On our second experiment, we counteracted this by using no extra fertilizer. However, if we were to give this experiment a third trial, we would do the following: use “clean” soil, measure levels with an API Test Kit, keep plants in more similar conditions as a river or lake, and to use more aquatic plants to diversify our options. Ultimately, the Anubias Barteri or Amazon Sword should be introduced and grown to any bodies of water that have high levels of nitrogen, if someone is aiming to combat runoff through the growth of aquatic plants.