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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

home : latest news : local October 20, 2014

4/24/2013 10:01:00 PM
Flood of ideas: Northpoint students make pitch for cleaner water in area creeks, lakes
Cindy Barks/The Daily CourierNorthpoint student Grant Hettleman, center, answers a question from the audience during a class presentation on water quality in Granite Creek. Also at Yavapai County administration building dais Monday night were, left to right, Madalyn Mayes, Steven Richardson, Stephanie Johnson, Hettleman, Kali Allen, and Prescott Creeks Outreach and Communications Director Ann-Marie Benz.
Cindy Barks/The Daily Courier

Northpoint student Grant Hettleman, center, answers a question from the audience during a class presentation on water quality in Granite Creek. Also at Yavapai County administration building dais Monday night were, left to right, Madalyn Mayes, Steven Richardson, Stephanie Johnson, Hettleman, Kali Allen, and Prescott Creeks Outreach and Communications Director Ann-Marie Benz.
Cindy Barks
The Daily Courier

PRESCOTT - There was no shortage of ideas as students from Northpoint Expeditionary Learning Academy worked on what has been a persistent community problem - the condition of the water in Prescott's creeks and lakes.

After spending months testing and evaluating the runoff water that flows into Granite Creek, the students were ready this week to take their results and their solutions to the community.

More than 100 students, parents, and local officials packed the meeting room at the Yavapai County administration building Monday night to hear the Northpoint freshmen make their presentations.

Conclusions were mixed: Although the students found that the creek's dissolved oxygen and pH levels were relatively good, they detected the presence of E. coli bacteria in most of the samples - a result that one student said "flabbergasted" the class.

Even so, the tests showed the creeks to be somewhat resilient. "Overall, Granite Creek is healthier than our students first expected, but it is still far from a healthy, stable riparian area," student Becca Spiess said.

Ann-Marie Benz, the outreach and communications director of Prescott Creeks, agreed, noting that tests often turn up better-than-expected results in Granite Creek.

"For all we have going on, it's not that terrible," she said, adding that the persistent presence of E. coli could be attributed to the presence of wildlife and dogs in the area.

Over the course of their project, the Northpoint students tested for E. coli, temperature, phosphorus, nitrates, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity. In early March, they used the parking lot behind Bashford Courts as an outdoor laboratory, testing the runoff water after the city's fire department flooded the lot.

The students then researched "best management practices" around the country to try to find solutions that are already in use. They suggested, for instance, that Prescott use more "permeable surfaces," which would allow water to filter into the ground, rather than running into the creeks.

"There are so many water-quality issues," student Grant Hettleman said. "We need to have government political action taken."

Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, who served as a moderator for one of the groups, asked whether the students had looked at ways of offering incentives for the private sector to take steps to improve the water quality.

Students responded that they had looked at options that included imposing fines and offering tax breaks.

Questions also arose about the students' willingness to pay the additional costs that would come with more restrictions.

Prescott City Councilman Chris Kuknyo, co-owner of the Patriot Disposal garbage collection company, told the group that residents are not always willing to pay more to protect the environment.

When Patriot offered recycling for an extra cost of $4 per month, Kuknyo said the service resulted in about 25-percent participation. "We could only persuade one in four people to do that," he said.

Although the students appeared unanimously in favor of higher costs to ensure a cleaner environment, one of the parents in the audience posed a dilemma for the group.

"If I have to pay for recycling, I can no longer pay my daughter's cell phone bill," the parent said, asking if that tradeoff would be acceptable to the students.

Bennett said the fact that the students were considering such weighty issues at a young age is promising for future decision-making in the community.

"I think it's great to hear them already thinking about the problems and identifying solutions," he said.

Noting that he was a member of the Prescott City Council by the age of 25, Bennett said the students are not far from being in a similar position.

The Northpoint charter high school has studied the area's water quality for the past three years. This year - under the supervisor of teacher Jeff Dyer - the study focused on determining the sources of the pollution in Willow and Watson lakes.

Since the early 2000s, Watson Lake and Granite Creek have been listed on state and federal lists of "impaired waters" for their levels of dissolved oxygen and pH.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, April 26, 2013
Article comment by: trickyrick smith

I know the possible source for the ecoli contamination. A friend of mine had to call about someone dumping horse manure into Granite Creek a few years ago.

Since horses produce 30 to 50 pounds of manure each day, this is a very likely source, and who knows how long this person was dumping their horse waste into the stream.

Yavapai County approved an equestrian development at the American Ranch without having any requirement for manure management. Some of these properties back up to Mint Wash. This is no longer acceptable.

It is a huge problem in Arizona, ecoli contamination of not only streams, but groundwater as well from unregulated livestock manure, particularly backyard horses. You can see this ecoli contamination all over the state. Something needs to change.
Anyone who has horses or other livestock near a stream should contact the NRCS- the conservation service- to learn how to keep ecoli out of their waterway and groundwater. This service is provided at no cost to anyone who needs to learn about land management and water quality.

Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2013
Article comment by: This is a wonderful student project. Our creeks and lakes need environmental action.

I figured Mayor K and his council would boycott this student meeting on clean creeks and lakes as they did the recent one on the Verde River. They seem to ignore anything that has to do with protecting the environment and our fragile ecosystem. But one of them turned up - right!! one out of eight! Wonder what the Mayor and Blair and Lamerson and the rest were doing. Probably having lunch with land developers, ranchers, or polluting small business owners.

Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2013
Article comment by: Andy Newton

Excellent work NELA. I only wish I'd had the opportunity to participate in a similar project when I was in high school. This is a fine school!

Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2013
Article comment by: This is such a great school!! !!

Wish my kids could have gone to a school like this. Keep up the great work.

Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2013
Article comment by: Diamond Valley Resident

How about keeping our city clean? Hey Diamond Valley people, it is NOT a dump, and your Mother's not going to pick up after you. Please don't throw your litter on the streets. Thanks.

Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2013
Article comment by: To Students

Thank you, and keep up the good work!

There are actually some cities where signs are placed on public trails and parks where dogs are allowed that inform dog owners that their dogs' poops end up in the WATER SUPPLY. Apparently the ordinance to pick up after their dogs isn't enough, especially when they glance around and think no one is looking.

This seems unrelated, but germ blowers, I mean, leaf blowers, could also be contributing to the problem of dispersion of feces into the water. Those machines aerosolize not just dust but any dried bird or animal feces in it and not just take it airborne where we can more easily inhale it into your mouths and noses, but they also blow it into the streets where it runs off into drains and ditches and into the creeks.

Once upon a time, there were such things as brooms, rakes, muscles, lean bodies, a far lower rate of obesity and diabetes, and less air and noise pollution.

You might want to check out how many chemicals and how much of them our city has to add to our drinking water to get rid of E. Coli.

Wake up and smell the chlorine!

Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2013
Article comment by: David DenHartog

Impressive! Congratulations Northpoint students and teachers in taking a relevant, meaningful topic and designing learning that integrates state standards into a rigorous study. What a great example you are of what authentic learning can and should look like! Keep up the great work.

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