ES Lab Report – Nitrate

Background Introduction

The presence of nitrogen is vital for all organisms as it is an element of protein. It is present in the environment in various compositions and constantly changes from one to another as it goes through the Nitrogen cycle. Nitrate and nitrite are both compounds of nitrogen, which are found in natural sources such as soil, water, plants and food. These compounds are formed when microorganisms in the environment break down organic materials, such as plants, animal manure, and sewage. This is useful as most of nitrogen absorbed by plants is in the form of nitrate. However, since nitrate is extremely leachable, it very quickly moves with water through the soil and in the event of high amounts of rainfall or excessive irrigation, this can permeate through the various soil layers and reach the groundwater sources.  Nitrate can get into drinking water from runoff or seepage into ground water from farms, golf courses, home lawns, etc. In a well, nitrate may get into the water more easily if the well is poorly constructed.

The presence of nitrate in water is extremely difficult to detect, as it does not have any color, odor and is tasteless. The most significant health hazard of the presence of nitrate in drinking water is when the nitrate present in the water is transformed to nitrite in the digestive system.  This causes a condition called methemoglobinemia, which occurs due to the oxidation of hemoglobin to form methemoglobin. Methemoglobin does not have the same oxygen carrying ability of hemoglobin.

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Excessive levels of nitrate in drinking water have caused serious illness and sometimes death. When there is too much nitrate in freshwater or estuarine systems close to land, nitrate can reach high levels that can potentially cause the death of fish. Escalated potential risks of cancer from nitrate and nitrite in water and food are also reported.

In this experiment, we are going to measure the level of nitrate or nitrite present in our water system by comparing tap water with grey water. Grey water is non-industrial wastewater generated from domestic processes such as washing dishes, laundry and bathing.

Aim of Experiment

By investigating the elements of nitrite or nitrate that our ground water has, we as a class can determine which residential areas have the most health-threatening water. The aim of this experiment is to raise awareness in high school students on health-threatening issues such as the potential risks of nitrate in water.

Hypothesis

Unlike countries like Australia or Singapore, Indonesia is not commonly associated with clean tap water. In fact drinking tap water is not recommended nor practiced.  Inspite of this common notion, there are very few health issues related to “clean water” in Jakarta.  The hypothesis put forward by this experiment is that the nitrate level in groundwater in areas around Jakarta would be minimal.

Materials and Equipments

Grey water, Tap water, Nitrate-nitrite meter, Function graph, Calculator, Testing chemical.

Independent Variable: Location

Dependent Variable: Amount of nitrate/nitrite

Methods

– Collect plentiful gray water and tap water from houses in different areas. – Put the same volume of water from each source into different test tubes.  – Put the testing chemical inside each test tube to check nitrate/nitrite level.  – Measure each nitrate/nitrite level using meter.  – Compare result using a mathematical function graph.   – Use calculator to calculate final results.    — Interpret data.

Discussion

As seen from the results the level of nitrate found was minimal.  The area around Lippo Karawaci and Sudirman has the biggest chance of having nitrate in their water. This being said does not mean there is 0% possibility that nitrate is present in other areas. This experiment is probably not as detailed as it should be; therefore achieving zero results in most of the areas.

Evaluation

Even though the results show extremely minimal amounts of nitrate present in the water sources In Jakarta, one cannot draw permanent conclusions that it safe to drink. Alternate sources of drinking water such as bottled water or spring water are always recommended, especially in the case of infants and pregnant women.  Boiling of water is not a solution, as this only tends to increase the concentration of nitrate in water.

The hypothesis states that the nitrate level around Jakarta and its surrounding suburban areas will be minimal. The experiment confirms the hypothesis. However, since the sample size was limited the reliability of the results is debatable.

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