Grant funds groundwater education

Published 3:46 pm Thursday, June 8, 2006

By By ANDY HAMILTON / Niles Daily Star
NILES - Ever wonder how water flows underground?
Niles Community Schools students will get a pretty good look at the process starting next year.
Six ground water simulators were recently purchased with a grant secured by the local Wellhead Protection Team. The simulators will be distributed throughout the district's schools for use in science classes.
An local initiative originated after a 1986 amendment recommending states establish a voluntary Wellhead Protection Program. The first step of the project was identifying the sources in the area supplying the public drinking water that comes from groundwater wells.
Morse said eight, 150 to 200 foot wells are in the area, including one near Fort and Third streets.
The Wellhead Protection Team was formed following a Wellhead Protection Area Delineation Plan in 1996 and includes the City of Niles, Niles Charter Township and the City of Buchanan.
Township and county health department officials, fire department and utilities employees, school teachers and a representative from an engineering firm were selected to participate in the program.
Some of their goals included conducting a contaminated source inventory, creating proper management practices, contingency planning, identifying new wells and sealing abandoned wells.
Another initiative of the Wellhead Protection Team was public education. With the help of a $30,000 grant, Morse said they were able to purchase six Envision ground water simulators at $1,000 each to be used within the Niles school district and for area organizations. Each elementary school, as well as Ring Lardner Middle School, Cedar Lane Alternative High School and Niles High School will have access to the simulators.
The simulators consist of small pebbles, sand and clay mashed in layers between thick sections of plastic, similar to how an ant farm appears. Piercing down into the tan layers are small tubes representing different well depths. On the top sits simulated lakes and rivers.
To demonstrate the flow of groundwater, McDaniel fills a small dropper with water and releases it into one of the wells. The water is colored blue or green to show good or contaminated water.
Slowly, the water flows through the layers of sand and dirt to simulate how ground water flows from water sources to wells, or, how contaminated materials could creep into clean water areas.
Morse said he is available to do demonstrations with the ground water simulators for clubs or civic organizations. Interested parties can contact him at 683-4700 ext. 302.