Harlem Meer Water Lab

In order to test the water quality of the Harlem River(where NYC’s water supply comes from), we went to the water lab and conducted our own coliform tests on the water. In order to see, we did a coliform test on different water samples from the creek. This is a test which indicates bacteria and signs of contamination within the water. Specifically we tested the for both Fecal (Human) and Total (Animal) in 5 different samples, using reference standards to indicate which bacteria was in each sample. The water source that was tested was a an open creek that could potentially be susceptible to contamination from both humans, such as trash, urine, and fecal matter, as well as bacteria and disease from rodents and other living organisms. When testing, we looked for two signs as indicators of bacteria. If the water came back purple, this meant E. Coli was present. If the water came back pink, citrobacter was found in the water sample.


Everything within the experiment was handled very consistently and  with sterile care. We wore gloves to ensure we were not contaminating anything throughout the process. We were sure to label and test each sample correctly, cleanly, and thoroughly. Throughout the process we were conscious of the Scientific Method of exploration and experimentation which we followed in order to get our results.


From our results we could see that before the filter that is used on the water, evidence of both E. Coli and Citrobacter bacteria were found in the sample, which showed up both pink and purple (Plate 4). Though we found that the filter was effective as the water after being filtered was found to be clean of bacteria and contamination (Plate 5).

We also discussed the design of the NYC public sewage and drainage systems.

We found that:

  • During rainfall, the drainage pipes overflow with rain and mix with waste and sewage which drains into the main source of water.

In order to solve this we thought of solutions such as:

  • A system of multiple, larger pipes
  • A sustainable design that would both reduce waste as well as help another aspect of the city
    • Rooftop Gardens
    • Drainage Systems or Reuse systems within each building

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