The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

November 3, 2013

DHS students to test water in parking lots

Results to show whether new lot is eco-friendly

The Commercial-News

---- — DANVILLE – As soon as the weather is favorable, students in Doug Mathias’ New Tech biology class will test the water from Danville High School’s new “green” parking lot and other parking lots along Jackson Street to determine the quality of the water runoff.

Mathias said he and the students were ready to collect water samples on Thursday, but city engineers David Schnelle and Eric Childers called Mathias and told him that it had rained a little too much to get an accurate reading on any substances that might be in the water.

“There was just too much water, and with the filtration system (in the “green” parking lot), it would be washed out completely,” he said. “We’re going to wait until it dries out.”

The students also will test water samples from the unfinished teachers’ parking lot and a paved parking lot at the Jackson Building to see how it compares with the water from the high school’s new “green” parking lot.

The city received an Illinois Environmental Protection Agency grant to spend up to $750,000 on eligible items for the DHS parking lot and multi-use field improvements. The city also used about $484,000 in Midtown Tax Increment Financing funding and about $35,000 in sanitary sewer fund money on the storm water improvements for the DHS campus.

This summer, the southern high school parking lot was reconstructed to include a green overflow parking area along Hazel Street that can be used as a practice field for marching band or other activities when not needed for parking.

The project uses environmentally friendly porous pavements and landscaping to allow water to pass through them into a granular filter below that cleans the water before releasing it back to the storm sewer system.

The expected lifespan for the parking lot work is 20-25 years.

Using handheld probes, Mathias’ students will test water samples for pH, nitrates, chlorine, turbidity and O2 levels. The probes, which can test water quality, were purchased a few years ago with a $35,000 grant.

“We’re having the kids do most of the work,” Mathias said. “We’ll put the data together, and the kids will come up with a multi-page report. They will present the results to the city and the school board.”

The students eventually will design the signs that will be erected in the “green” parking lot that explain how the water is filtered through grass and rocks and why it is eco-friendly.

“We’re the only school doing this,” he said. “I don’t think the students know how lucky they are to be able to do this.”