Monday, August 5, 2013

Down and Dirty at Langtree Peninsula

Hey! My name is Christine and I am one of three undergraduate researchers who came onto the Polizzotto team at the start of Summer 2013. It's now early August and we've done PLENTY in that time. While my fellow undergrads, Corey and Allison, have been on many a field day, I typically just hang back in the lab and do stuff there. HOWEVER, I finally went along on a field day a couple weeks back and it was definitely a less *cough* controlled environment. Langtree Peninsula is closer to Charlotte, so we all met at the lab at the crack of dawn so that we could arrive in time to meet our liason with DENR-DWQ, Joju Abraham. We met him just outside the gated entrance to the peninsula and then followed him by vehicle just a short distance down the road to our well sites. For those of you who don't know, a monitoring well looks like this:

Looks innocent enough, right? WRONG! Some of these suckers go as deep as 600 feet and when you need to purge T-H-R-E-E well volumes before you can sample, these seemingly innocuous wells can be quite intimidating. In order to accomplish this well purge, we use a pump system. This is mainly comprised of a plastic tube of appropriate length, a power source (such as a car engine or some other electricity generating thing), and a device known as a controller that (you guessed it) controls the output of power and therefore controls the rate at which water flows out of the well from the plastic tube. The tube and the cord attached to the controller are lowered down into the well together and some initial measurements are taken to determine how long it will take for three well volumes to be emptied out, which can range from half an hour to 36 hours. At that point, we would simply hang back, relax, and take some readings using the YSI at appropriate intervals as the well was emptying. If things worked. Which, as it turns out, does not often happen. Our first technical difficulty occurred when Joju could not get his pump working (which later turned out to be a quick fix). Then, after we had split people and pumps up in order to tackle more sites, OUR controller broke. Fortunately, we managed to get some water samples before all the technology broke down, which were then filtered and treated at the site and stored in ice for the ride home. We not only battled technology, but nature. Before that day, you could not have convinced me that any other kind of fly besides a horsefly could bite. This is a false assumption because while we were in an open field and therefore spared the danger of ticks, we WERE subject to the constant nibbling of small flies that ran abundant while a hot sun beat down on us. Corey and I did manage to evade both sun and flies for a little while though. While our deepest well was draining, Corey and I went down to the peninsula and jumped into the lake water, fully clothed and dangerous :D A summer camp was taking place around the peninsula, and so there were giant inflatables floating in the water for the kids to play on. Corey swam over the inflatables to climb on top and was quickly reprimanded by a camp life guard :) We finally returned to the lab around 7:00 PM and, after some unloading and some filtering, we were finally able to call it a day. This is merely an abridged version of all that happened, but all in all, I found that field days can be fun and educational, in that you learn what to do, how to do it, and how stuff might blow up in your face anyway.

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