CSU–Pueblo to unveil equipment for water study research

Colorado State University – Pueblo will unveil next week a piece of equipment that will assist in a variety of research projects concerning water quality throughout Southern Colorado. The University will unveil the inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (ICP-MS), which will be used for chemical elemental analysis of samples from a number of research sub-projects at a ribbon cutting beginning at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, May 17 in Chemistry 413.

The purchase of the equipment was made possible by an agreement with Lower Arkansas Valley Conservancy District, which pledged $200,000 as initial funding to conduct a comprehensive three-year study of water quality on Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River. The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District announced last fall that it had chipped in $200,000 to launch a $1 million study.

The Lower Ark contributed $100,000 toward the purchase of the equipment and another $100,000 to support water quality research for one year. The University provided $50,000 in matching funds to purchase the ICP-MS instrument. The study funded by the Conservancy District spans three years which will allow sampling at low and high flows and provide baseline data that can be used by numerous other partners. These research projects will not only corroborate data obtained by other agencies, like water quality data obtained by the USGS, but the studies also will expand the usefulness of the data by providing toxicological information.

According to Dr. Del Nimmo, adjunct research professor of biology, the ICP-MS will be used to provide chemical analysis of metals and other elements of interest using methodologies approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The ICP-MS will be used to determine metal concentrations via EPA approved methods in the water and sediment. A unique aspect of this study is that the concentration of metals in pore water, the water that resides in between particles of soil or sand in the water bed can be measured. This data may be useful in predicting how metals may travel down the stream.

About the Equipment
The ICP-MS is capable of determining the concentrations of metals to a very low level. What makes it unique is its ability to determine the concentration of as many different metals as needed in a sample, all at the same time. Many of these metals, for example selenium, cadmium, zinc and others, can be toxic to invertebrates and fish and even humans at very small concentrations. Part of the project funded by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy  District will determine what areas of the creek may be toxic to the invertebrates which form the base of the food chain. This toxicity data will provide information about the overall biological health of the water.

Different forms of metal can have a wide range of toxicity based on how easily they can be absorbed into tissues, or their bioavailability. Metal concentrations also will be determined in special plants placed in the water that will show how bioavailable the metals may be to living organisms.

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