WestConn uses grant to clean-up local water resource
Graduate students get hands-on experience
DANBURY, CONN. — From the water to its shores, Lake Kenosia has long been a gathering place for Danbury residents. But in recent years development around the lake has caused an imbalance that is threatening the health of the water environment.
Students and faculty at Western Connecticut State University already have started to conduct research to clean up the water and restore balance to the lake. Dr. Theodora Pinou, WCSU associate professor of biology and environmental sciences, said the lake is plagued with low oxygen and a high bacteria count.
“When you have that, you tend to get nutrient-loading in the water,” Pinou said, caused by decaying plant material, phosphates from detergents, and nitrates wash into the water during heavy rainfall. “We know it’s a problem because we’re not finding the diversity that used to be in Lake Kenosia. Certain fish and the diversity of amphibians and reptiles should be there. A lot of non-native plant life is now colonizing the lake.”
Earlier this year, the university received a $45,000 grant from the Connecticut Institute of Water Resources to conduct testing to determine what and how many nutrients are being loaded into the water. Pinou and two graduate biology students will collect approximately 12 water samples after substantial rainfalls and then send them to a testing laboratory. This baseline study will continue until January.
The sampling will compare the water upstream from the lake. By looking at the difference, which Pinou suspects is great, they will be able to develop a plan of action. Pinou hopes to apply for a separate grant to put in storm drains to alleviate water runoff.
“It’s a question of whether we can use this water to irrigate, to swim in, to drink,” Pinou said. “What we see is algae growing and there are odors, proving that the low oxygen level is contributing to a high concentration of bacteria. It’s not a healthy environment. The whole cycle of life is stopped.”
Pinou said the project came about after the city approached the university to help figure out how to preserve this valuable community resource. She said the city has considered using the lake as a community water supply.
WCSU graduate students Nicole Stiteler of Newburgh, N.Y. and Aaron Ferraro of Brentwood, N.H., are eager to get involved with this hands-on research.
“I hope that this study actually leads to improved storm water treatment for the lake,” Ferraro said. “On a personal level, one benefit of the project is that it’s great to get these ‘work place’ skills. This internship will allow me to keep my skills sharp while taking classes and looking for employment where I put my experiences to use.”
In addition to the water testing and the paid graduate internships, the grant will also provide funds for community outreach. Pinou said brochures about the project will be available and geared toward local school children. The remainder of the fund will provide for assistance from Jack Kozuchowski, environmental consultant and Danbury’s Greenway consultant.
Western Connecticut State University offers outstanding faculty in a range of quality academic programs. Our diverse university community provides students an enriching and supportive environment that takes advantage of the unique cultural offerings of Western Connecticut and New York. Our vision: To be an affordable public university with the characteristics of New England’s best small private universities.