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Envirothon team tackles nitrate levels in water

Members of the 2010 Envirothon team are front, from left, Rachel Fineday and Sophie Shogren, and back, from left, Brennan Larson, Dan Pike, Alex Renner and Christian Ridlon. (Submitted photo)

This year's Envirothon topic - nitrate contamination in water - hit home for the Park Rapids students involved in the competition this spring.

The city of Park Rapids has been dealing with high nitrate levels in water for several years, having to shut down some shallow wells recently.

The Envirothon is a competition that tests teams from different schools on four core subjects of forestry, soils and land use, aquatic ecology and wildlife, along with a current issue on an environmental subject, which changes every year. Each team must also prepare an oral presentation on the current topic, which is presented to a panel of judges.

The Park Rapids team, consisting of Danny Pike, Alex Renner, Sophie Shogren, Rachel Fineday, Brennan Larson and Christian Ridlon, had to study nitrate levels in ground water and figure out possible solutions. Park Rapids High School Ecology teacher Kevin Young recruited the students and helped them compete in the regional competition in Bemidji in April and state competition in Deerwood last week.

"We looked at older tests and discovered that digging a deep well would be the best option," Shogren said.

"That, along with working with farmers in the area," Renner said.

That's the same solution the city of Park Rapids came up with for the short term. A deep well was drilled to replace some of the water previously pumped by shallow wells that tested high for nitrates.

"It really helped our research to have something similar going on here," Pike said.

Most of this year's team also participated in the Envirothon last year and were familiar with the process. The team worked on an oral presentation for the competition and worked together to answer 20 questions at each of five learning stations.

Some of the students hope to be involved in the Envirothon next year as well.

"It's a real neat way to get people involved and thinking about the environment," Shogren said.

Area Envirothon competitions are administered by the state's Soil and Water Conservation Districts, in partnership with conservation organizations, educators, and other natural resource agencies.

The School Forest Committee helped defray costs associated with the Envirothon, along with the Hubbard County Coalition of Lake Associations, Mantrap Valley Conservation Club Auxiliary and Minnesota Power.

Marilyn Berry, from the National Resources Conservation Service in Park Rapids, was instrumental in organizing the Envirothon, the students said.

"We just want to thank everyone who helped us in Bemidji and at state," Shogren said.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
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