PBS KIDS GO!dragonflytv

Find out when DragonflyTV is on in your town.
Discover DFTV!
This text is replaced by the Flash movie.

Water Clean Up

I'm Taylor. My friend Gabe and I love the water, but we know that keeping it clean is not always easy. Just upriver in Palmerton, Pennsylvania, there is an old zinc smelting plant that was one of the factories polluting the local rivers and streams. We headed to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia and learned that nanoiron is being used to clean up contaminants and keep the water safe. Because it is so small, nanoiron can seep through the soil and attach to pollutants both in the ground and in the water. Our question: Can nanoiron clean up the pollution in soil and prevent it from getting into drinking water?

What did we do?
After our museum visit, we met up with a researcher named Joanna from Penn State University who helped us collect some soil samples from the Palmerton site for testing. This fieldwork was fun--but messy. No worries! Back in the lab, we tested the soil for metals like lead, nickel and copper both before and after treatment with nanoiron.

What did we find out?
We found that the nanoiron took most of the copper out of the water and the levels were now safe for drinking! The nanoiron removed a lot of lead and nickel too, but the levels weren't quite safe to drink. Joanna told us that nanoiron does a great job, but scientists still need to be combine it with other ways to clean up water to make sure everything is safe.

What can you do?
  • How do people get drinking water from wells? Do an experiment to find out! Grab a toilet paper tube and place it upright in a coffee can. Hold the tube and pour about 1 - 2 inches of gravel (or aquarium rocks) inside the can (not the tube). Add a layer of sand on top of the gravel. Add water slowly until the level reaches the top of the sand. What happens inside the tube? How could pollutants in the soil affect people's drinking water?
  • Put a few drops of iodine (from a drugstore) onto a paper plate out spread it out with a cotton swab. Quickly spray the plate with spray starch (it should look purple). This is your pollutant. Take a vitamin C tablet and rub it across the pollutant. What happens? Nanoiron does a similar chemical reaction as the vitamin C tablet when it wipes out pollutants from the soil and water.
  • Is there water pollution in your area? Here are some ways to tell. Is there trash lying around? Is the water covered in green algae? Is the area missing wildlife like fish, birds and insects? Does the water have soap bubbles in it? Does it smell bad (like rotten eggs)? Do you see multi-colored shiny films (from oil)? If you're concerned about the water in your area, tell someone!
more resources
Water Pollution

Go to the DFTV Boards, and tell us about your science investigation.
whiz quiz
Here's a list of things you definitely do not want in your drinking water, but when this particular thing is nanosized, it can help take toxins, or pollutants out of drinking water.

dragonflytv PBS Kids Go!