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For students at Redeemer University College in Ancaster, Ontario, an analytical chemistry class project led to a visit with city officials.

A student from Redeemer’s analytical chemistry class gives a presentation to the City of Hamilton on water testing results in the area.

The students, led by Professor Darren Brouwer, discovered significant contamination and water quality issues in the Chedoke Creek watershed near Hamilton. Last week they presented their findings at a public presentation attended by City of Hamilton representatives as well as other conservation authority members.

The class is a project-based course where students tackle real-life situations hands-on. “We identified a real-world problem and just dove into it, learning as we went along. We don’t know all the issues in what is a very complicated issue, but our goal is to contribute one piece to the larger discussion,” said Dr. Brouwer.

The project involved biweekly testing of water at five sites to determine levels of E. Coli and other harmful bacteria. One site in a residential area was found to contain levels that significantly exceed the Province of Ontario limits. The results suggested cross-contamination between sanitary and storm sewers, a problem known to the city.

Mark Bainbridge of the city’s public works department acknowledged that cross connections are a problem and that the city is already at work on a solution.

This new research plays an important role, Bainbridge noted. “This work raises public awareness of the issue. It helps garner support and build momentum to finding and resourcing the solutions needed to resolve a complicated problem.”

Jared Van Huizen, a third-year student from Trenton, Ontario, is one of the students who participated in the research. He said that the project was more than just an assignment.

“I call Hamilton my home now,” he said. “I love the city, especially its natural beauty, and this is one way I can be involved, to help.”

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