Water tests performed by Stony Brook’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences and The Statesman came back this week with new information about Roth Pond and ordinary tap water.

Tests on the pond water show no biological pollutants. (MIKE PEDERSEN/THE STATESMAN)
Tests on the pond water show no biological pollutants. (MIKE PEDERSEN/THE STATESMAN)

The tests on the Roth Pond water were negative for nitrites, nitrates and phosphates—biological pollutants regulated by government at all levels, including the Suffolk County Water Authority. Campus tap water, however, came back with a positive result for nitrates.

The tap water nitrate levels registered under the EPA’s acceptable limit of 10 parts per million. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, consuming too many nitrates or nitrites can lead to methaemoglobinaemia. Sufferers of this condition do not carry enough oxygen in their blood cells. This is especially dangerous in infants, where it is known as ‘blue baby syndrome.’

Students around campus already expressed concern about nitrate levels before they heard the test results.

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“I would guess a lot of fertilizer runoff gets in there,” said senior biology major Jenifer Holden, such as  “a lot of nitrates and phosphates.”

While Professor J. Kirk Cochran of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences tested oxygen and pH levels on site, laborers nearby dumped truckloads of fertilizer on the surrounding gardens.

“Last year it looked disgusting, it smelled disgusting and there was stuff floating in it.” said senior biology major Meredith Smith, who was decorating a boat for the Science Fiction Forum. “They always say they’re going to clean the pond and they never do.”

Down the hallway in the Stony Brook Union Basement, sophomore history major Caroline Propersi said she feared finding “all manner of dark things” in the pond.

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But the brown pond hasn’t sent everyone ashore.

“It doesn’t look pretty, but I’ve seen fish in it,” said junior business major Christie Rendino. “There are turtles in there, it isn’t that bad.”

Not bad at all, according to Professor Cochran. The water

in Roth Pond, he concluded, is “perfectly safe” for students to splash through in the annual Roth Regatta.

Additionally, he said, acidity levels are “about what you’d expect” from Long Island groundwater, and an air pump at the pond ensures that oxygen levels remain at a healthy high.

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“I still wouldn’t drink it,” Cochran said.

The pond’s brown color could come from a number of sources: stirred up sediment, algae, or fish and fowl excrement.

And even though the water does not contain a few common biological pollutants, additional testing for bacteria or heavy metals could turn up entirely different results.

“It’s pretty dirty,” junior psychology major Mairi Cardone said of the water. “I’ve seen trash floating in it, and I know kids who’ve puked in there.”

As repulsed as she was by the pond water, she was more comfortable with the campus tap water, nitrates and all.

“I’ve been drinking tap water for 21 years,” she said. “And I’m fine.”

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