Removing That â€˜Earthyâ€™ Smell
Jun 14, 2011
Come springtime, tap water in Moorhead often has an “earthy” odor, so the city’s water plant supervisor asked chemistry professor Dr. Mark Jensen if he could do something about it.
A former student in Jensen’s analytical chemistry class, supervisor Kris Knutson ‘03 is familiar with Concordia’s testing equipment needed for such an analysis.
The result is a summer research project for chemistry students Lauren Tjaden ’13, St. Paul, Minn., and Chelsea O’Hara ’13, Missoula, Mont.
They’re testing samples of city water drawn from the Red River to determine what chemical compounds are in the water, which ones might be the odorous offenders, and what can be done to diminish or eliminate them.
“The compounds we’re finding are not unhealthy,” stresses Tjaden. “There’s just a slight smell to the water that we hope to correct.”
Early speculation to the cause of the odor might be from crop remnants that decompose in fields over winter, and then during spring runoff are flushed into the river. Tjaden and O’Hara will test crops like sugar beets to determine if a specific source can be found.
“Hopefully we can find a solution to correct this problem for future years,” says O’Hara. “Our research is meaningful because it will have a direct effect on our community.”
The two are making good use of the chemistry department’s mass spectrometry equipment, which is helping them analyze water samples and plot a “fingerprint “of the chemical compounds in the water.
“We’re finding the same compounds in all of our samples, which is proof that our research method is working,” says Tjaden.