CFCC Chemical Technology Students Invite Public to Participate in Community Water Study

Cape Fear Community College students will be taking a closer look at the local area’s water sources as part of a study funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.  As part of the study, the public is invited to submit samples from various sources, which will be examined by students utilizing new state-of-art equipment purchased with a $150,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

According to chemical technology lead instructor Tracy Holbrook, the success of this grant intricately involves community participation and allows students to be exposed to “real-world” experience to help prepare them for work outside of the classroom.

The public is encouraged to bring a water sample (from the faucet, well, a purifying or filtered system, a river, lake, or stream) to the Natural Sciences Building at the downtown Wilmington Campus – Room N-302 by Monday, March 21.

Water samples will be tested for various contaminants including lead, chromium, copper, iron, conductivity, and pH.  With the acquisition of a new atomic absorption spectrometer coupled with a cold vapor attachment, students will also be testing for a series of elements  including mercury and an array of organic compounds including common herbicides and pesticides as well as many carcinogenic compounds.

Due to the depth of the study, a full report will be sent to participants within 4-6 weeks.  There is no charge for the test, but participants must submit samples by 5 p.m. on March 21 to be considered. Submission forms can be downloaded from:

If you’d like to participate, please consider these guidelines:
1.  Feel free to bring in more than one sample.  Our students love mini-projects…for example, if you use a Brita water filter, bring in a sample before and after your sample passes through the filter.  Some people have brought in water from their refrigerator dispenser as well as water from their kitchen faucet so that we can compare the two samples.  Others have brought in water samples from Empie Dog Park, Greenfield Lake, a stream or lake in their backyard/communities, etc.

2.  An ideal sample size will be 1 gallon.  This ensures us that we will have enough water to do multiple trials of each test.  Please ensure that your containers are cleaned and thoroughly rinsed.

3.  Any container is fine.  (Most people will use plastic milk jugs).

4.  Please try to obtain your sample the day you bring it to our lab.  If a sample has been stored in a vehicle for a couple of days, the sample becomes unreliable.  We can still provide testing on the sample, but it might not represent true values of any contaminants.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Tracy Holbrook at or Kim Bufkin at  The deadline to submit water samples is Monday, March 21, 2011.