Larry Alt, who oversees the science laboratories for Illinois Valley Community College, is keeping alive a tradition started by instructor Bob Byrne in 1994.
Byrne retired in 2001, but until 2003 continued to take students out into the field to 11 test sites to check the overall health of area streams, including the Little Vermilion River, Alt said.
On Saturday, Alt and about 12 students tested for pH, total dissolved solids, oxygen levels and conductivity (ions such as calcium).
Jessica Rios-Phlippeau of La Salle was among the students below the U.S. 6 bridge who donned hip waders and ventured into the water using a handheld device that tests and gives immediate feedback on water quality. In addition, she and fellow students dipped a cloth screen into the water to find insect larvae, etc.
Alt said IVCC students go to 11 sites overall. They do testing twice each fall and twice each spring. In addition to the site near U.S. 6, they ran tests after receiving landowner permission to wade the Little Vermilion at the Hogsback Roadjust south of Interstate 80.
Alt said even though Carus Chemical has a discharge pipe north of IVCC’s test site, the students and science lab has never found “anything bad” from the plant in the water. He said this will be the first tests at the site since La Salle built its east-side wastewater treatment plant; however, the discharge from the plant is supposed to be of drinking water quality.