of Nitrate in Groundwater
Using this module,
students in high school environmental science or chemistry
classes design and conduct experiments concerning bioremediation
of groundwater polluted with nitrate. The experiments test
whether soil bacteria can remove nitrate from polluted water.
Through these experiments, students learn about nutritional
and environmental requirements of soil microbes. Before
conducting their laboratory experiments, students read newspaper
articles and conduct Internet research to learn about local
pollution problems that could or are being addressed through
This module was
designed in response to a request by teachers at Whitney
Point High School to conduct a hands-on activity that would
address bioremediation of chlorinated solvents, which had
been found in the town's groundwater and are common groundwater
contaminants throughout the US. Because chlorinated solvents
pose risks to human health, it was not possible for high
school students to study bacteria that degrade these compounds.
This experiment was designed as a safe alternative, to show
students a biological process that mimics biodegradation
of chlorinated solvents but instead uses nitrate, a common
groundwater contaminant that is not dangerous for students
to handle and is easy to monitor with chemical test kits.
This curriculum was piloted in 2004 in Whitney Point High
School and Newark Valley High School, NY.