Milwaukee researchers hope to bring awareness to human impact on area waterways through post-holiday water sampling.

What is Thanksgiving’s impact on local waterways? That’s a question the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences hopes to answer.

On Thanksgiving last week, the university along with its partners in the project, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, Urban Ecology Center and Carroll University, took samples from the Milwaukee, Kinnickinnic and Menomonee rivers. In the days following the holiday, water samples were taken again from the exact same spots. Val Klump, dean of the School of Freshwater Sciences, told Milwaukee Public Radio that the idea is to see if trace amounts of substances associated with Thanksgiving activities show up in the river water samples.

“One of the interesting things I have seen elsewhere — not here yet because we haven’t done it — is three days after Thanksgiving a big spike in vanilla and cinnamon,” Klump said to Milwaukee Public Radio.

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The hope, Klump says, is that it can help Milwaukee residents more clearly draw a connection between their daily behavior and how that may affect area waterways because eventually what finds its way to the rivers will also flow into Lake Michigan.

“I think a lot of people are familiar with the fact that there are pharmaceuticals in the lake and sort of have a vague idea how that happens,” Klump says.

The Thanksgiving study is part of a more in-depth, yearlong study the School of Freshwater Sciences is leading about human impacts on waterways.

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“We take our water infrastructure for granted,” says Klump. “You turn the tap and flush the toilet and don’t think of where it goes after that. And the truth of the matter is, we treat sewage extremely well, but they can’t get everything and some of it gets into our water supply.”

The initial Thanksgiving impact results will be released in mid-December, and Klump says he hopes it can be an annual sampling that can serve as a barometer for the human impact on local waterways.

Source: Milwaukee Public Radio

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