Environmental engineering students: Lake Osceola in good condition, but could be improved

Although the university strictly forbids anyone from taking a dip in the lake at the center of campus, a few students still decided to test the waters – literally.

A group of environmental engineering students collected and analyzed water samples from Lake Osceola last November and recorded pH, chemical and temperature levels.

“The overall aesthetic quality of Lake Osceola is good, but can be improved,” said junior Karen Kajder, member of the experimental team and president of the student chapter of the Florida Water and Environmental Association. “[A] decrease in pollution, such as fertilizer, lawn clippings and trash would greatly benefit all facets of the lake.”

The lake, which was dredged in 1947, is also home to marine life, ibises and American crocodiles. The fountain was placed at the center of the lake to help maintain oxygen levels for the marine life, said Helena Solo-Gabriel, professor and associate dean for research, civil, architectural and environmental engineering.

The soil that was dredged from the lake was sold to the city of Miami in efforts to raise funds for the development of Rickenbacker Causeway, the bridge that links the city of Miami to Key Biscayne. During a secret ceremony led by the Iron Arrow fraternity, the lake was named Osceola in honor of the highly respected chief of the Seminole Indian tribe.

Although the lake is rich in history, the students’ main goal was to find out if the lake also had a wealth of unhealthy toxins.

“You can test for millions of chemicals in a lake,” Solo-Gabriel said. “We tested a few and found that the values were within range for a lake located in an urban area.”

Chris Valencia may be contacted at c.valencia@umiami.edu.

Testing the water

-Salinity (a measure of saltiness)

-Turbidity (a measure of cloudiness)

-Dissolved Oxygen (needed in order for fish to survive in the water)

-Suspended solids (measure of the amount of particulates in the water)

-Phosphate (a nutrient in the water associated with algae production)