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Testing for sewage

As we make our way from the Windrush source to the Thames we are going to be taking water samples for scientists at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

We will also be taking samples of our own and using the equipment we have bought with donations from our team, supporters and the Burford Festival Charity. There is more equipment on the way.

Citizen science is becoming very popular as a way of adding to the limited resources that are available to the professionals and we hope to make a big contribution to the data and background information available about the Windrush.

The first bit of citizen science is something I mentioned in yesterday's blog; Looking for optical brighteners which show vividly under ultra violet light and are an indicator of sewage or detergents polluting a watercourse.

We came across this in a piece of work led by Prof Lerner at Sheffield University. Brighteners are found in some laundry and washing products. They stick to fabrics to make clothes look bright, and a good sample of untainted cotton and a good collector of pollutants is a tampon. The brand just needs checking that it is free of brighteners by examining a control sample soaked in tap water to make sure it does not flouresce under ulra violet light


The sample at the top was put into a patch of foam we found on the river in the lower reaches and you can see the bright patches under the ultra violet light. The other was the control sample.

We have already taken three samples on the first section of river and thankfully they are all negative! When will the first positive sample be taken? By then I hope we will have perfected the way to photograph it..

Contact us if you want to have a go and would like to contribute to the data with regular or one off samples.

Prof Lerner is now a member of Friends of Bradford's Becks, a similarly motivated group to our own. Check out their Facebook Page.

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