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Issue 476, 4 February 2002

University keeping an eye on local water quality

The University is helping to support a local environmental group in overseeing water quality in the river Aire and the becks which run into it, by becoming a guardian of Eye on the Aire. As well as supporting the group financially, the University can help by identifying areas of useful research, and reporting incidences of pollution.

In one project by PhD student Gary Beasley, (pictured left) sixty-two sites near becks across Yorkshire were monitored for levels of heavy metals and hydrocarbons, washed into watercourses from vehicle emissions and components. The highest concentrations were found near motorways, but certain characteristics of each area also affected pollution levels.

Road gradient, roundabouts, junctions and exit lanes all caused higher levels of copper and zinc in nearby streams. Both metals are found in tyre and brake components, so where vehicles are braking, levels are higher. Streams near areas with roadside parking or lay-bys showed higher levels of pollutants linked to leaked oil and fuel.

Gary Beasley explains: "Before beginning the research, I met Eye on the Aire to discuss the areas of information which might be useful to them. My remit had to cover a wider area than just the Aire, but this kind of research can be applied at a local level to influence changes in building or transport policy and its effect on the local environment."

Eye on the Aire chair Mike Gittins (pictured above, right) said: "It's useful having the University on board as a guardian, and we hope that we can collaborate more in the future. University research can feed back into our work by providing a scientific basis for our water quality initiatives."

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