Students study Cane Creek water quality with Jackson County environmental health specialists


Four specialists from the Jackson County Health Department and students in Tracy Zontek’s water quality course worked together on a recent study of Cane Creek near campus. They looked for instances of straight-piping, talked with community members and took water samples, which students tested for pH, the amount of dissolved oxygen, turbidity, total hardness, and levels of phosphate, nitrate, iron, sulfate and fecal coliform. Although the routine stream study yielded routine results – the samples fell within federal standards for surface and recreational use – the collaborative project offered a hands-on experience that students said was particularly valuable.

Cane Creek

Jonathan Fouts ’02 and Jessica Kern measure temperature and dissolved oxygen levels of Cane Creek.

For Wendy Grijalva, a senior from High Point majoring in environmental health, the project made her more aware of the difference environmental health specialists make. “This project made me realize just how important water quality is to our community,” said Grijalva. “The health department plays such a tremendous role in assuring the health and safety of our environment and human health, and it makes me cherish them so much more.”

Tonya Howell ’00, a registered environmental health specialist, said the health department was glad to participate as a way to increase students’ and residents’ awareness of the educational and informational role of the health department itself and of a creek in the community. Jonathan Fouts ’02, also a registered health specialist with Jackson County, added he and his colleagues were impressed with the students’ enthusiasm and their questions. “They have a genuine care for the environment,” said Fouts.