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Conservationist Crew Cracks Cobbs Creek Chlorine Case

Photo: Tom Avril/Philadelphia Inquirer

We neglected to mention this Philadelphia Inquirer story from two weeks ago, in which a group of teenaged summer interns at the Cobbs Creek Environmental Education Center solved the mystery of a fish kill in the West Philadelphia waterway. Following the creek upstream, 10th grader Kamal Gatewood (pictured, above) caught the scent of chlorine, originating from the drainage pipe of a municipal swimming pool.

"'We could smell it from about 20 feet away,' the 15-year-old [Gatewood] said.

The trio said they tested the drainage water with a portable test kit. They added chemicals to their water samples, causing them to change color, which they then checked on a chart that revealed the chlorine level. It read more than five parts per million. Fish can be killed by levels less than one-tenth that amount, according to a Duke University website. However, those readings were taken directly from the drainage pipe; the water in the creek was much more diluted.

At the suggestion of Singh and Kurnick, sewer repair workers agreed to move the pipe so it drained into a sewer grate."

Stay tuned for more news on this watershed detective work.