By Matt DeRenzo
A student study into allegations of pollution at a university pond on Valley Road has found only “tiny amounts” of coolant fluid that probably did not cause the death of fish there this summer.
The sudden death of the fish had sparked speculation that university employees dumped harmful air-conditioning fluid into the pond. But Ksawery Biskup, an environmental science major involved in the investigation, said the amount of glycol in the pond at 1600 Valley Road probably came the coolant of passing cars.
Biskup compared the amount of glycol in the pond to a few grains of sand among a million.
“It’s miniscule, like tiny, tiny amounts,” Biskup said. “Depending on the substance, at a certain point it does become toxic and hazardous to human health as well as otherbiological life.”
The university had previously denied the fish died from pollution, attributing their death to a harmful algal bloom, a rapid increase in the population of algae in a water system that produces toxins, depletes oxygen and blocks sunlight.
Bob Considine, a spokesman for the New Jersey Department o
f Environmental Protection, told the Pioneer Times that the death of the fish had “most likely” been caused by stagnation and excessive heat over the summer, leading to low oxygen levels.
Considine said the pond’s aeration system was not functioning well enough to sustain the fish in extended periods of hot weather. The agency recommended the modification of the system or the installation of “a pump spray/fountain type aeration system” to correct the issue.
They also found minimal amounts of glycol at Grebe Pond, near Hobart Hall.
Biskup said he and his partner on the project, Kathy Surlak, have completed 60 percent of their lab work and will continue to analyze data in the coming weeks. They plan to present their findings as part of their capstone project by the end of the semester.
Biskup said he and Surlak may conduct another study to analyze the amounts of carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen in the soil in the pond to determine whether it meets the DEP’s parameters for fish life.
They want to conduct a sieve analysis test to analyze particle sizes in the soil to determine its permeability and its content of sand and clay, which may affect water transport.
“We’re going to see what levels the pond is at now,” he said.