Environmental Chemistry Field Trip – Day 1, part 2

Our next stop was Appolinaris Spring, which seems to be an uncommon thing in Yellowstone National Park: ordinary springwater. No sulfuric acid, no steam, just plain old water that sinks into the ground and then comes back up later. For most of the park’s history, it seems like this used to be a popular place to stop to get a drink of water.

water emerging from small copper pipes
Although the signs around the spring now all suggest that you really shouldn’t drink it, at least not without filtering it first, I’m kind of kicking myself now for not having tasted it. Perhaps I’ll have to go back on my own time and try it.

Our on-site tests showed a pH of 5.9 (slightly acidic: milk is normally around 6.8 or so, Root Beer somewhere around a more acidic 4.0, cola beverages around 3.0, for reference…), relatively low TDS of about 100ppm, coming out of the ground cool (about 7C, or 43F), with very little dissolved Oxygen (about 6.0ppm) and faintly carbonated (300ppm CO2). It reportedly didn’t taste too good, but having foolishly missed out on tasting it, I don’t know why.

There were hints that perhaps contamination from surface water – like rain trickling through bison poo – but quite some time ago they sealed the spring up to protect it from that kind of thing. This is the actual spring now:

Appolinaris Spring is a concrete box in the ground with locked metal tops...
Even so, the signs still try to discourage people from drinking the water coming from the pipes that lead out of the spring, which I take to be the park service covering themselves just in case someone claims to get sick from it. (“Hey, we TOLD you not to drink it!”).

Appolinaris: This spring water has been used by visitors since early days of the park.  However modern water tests show periodic contamination.  Park waters, even though clear and running are subject to pollution by wildlife.  As with all untreated water, purify before drinking.
Periodic pollution by wildlife? What the…

The northern end of a south-bound bisonOh, right. Natural bottled-spring-water flavor. Hey, it’s natural, it’s got to be good for you, right?

And to end this post on a complete and totally baffling non-sequitur: the student lounge I’m sitting in right now has a television constantly tuned to some cheesy mass-media channel. Today it’s “E!”. I overheard something on it just now that made me sit up and take notice: Evidently “Leprechaun” made a profit. Wow.

One never knows what kind of amazing things one might learn at college…

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The Author is (currently) an autodidactic student of Industrial and Environmental microbiology, who is sick of people assuming all microbiology should be medical in nature, and who would really like to be allowed to go to graduate school one of these days now that he's finished his BS in Microbiology (with a bonus AS in Chemistry). He also enjoys exploring the Big Room (the one with the really high blue ceiling and big light that tracks from one side to the other every day) and looking at its contents from unusual mental angles.

2 thoughts on “Environmental Chemistry Field Trip – Day 1, part 2”

  1. I don’t remember seeing that spring, but I can understand the sign. After all, fish do all sorts of things in the rivers and lakes so why should I be surprised at what ends up in that spring? The pictures were nice and it really looks like you enjoy the postings. Maybe you should look into photo-journalism. Then you could write off some of that equipment that you lament not being able to afford. Anyway, I am enjoying the postings and pictures. Keep up the good works and let us know when you find out something about graduate studies.


  2. We’ve actually driven up and down the road it’s on many times, and I’d never noticed it before, either. The spring itself (and the little outlet they’ve set up where is streams out) is actually a little ways off the road, so the only really obvious indication that it’s even there is a small brown sign that you pass that says “Appolinaris Spring”.

    I would love to end up in some sort of science-and-nature communications variety of job, especially in written form. This blog is intended to be practice for just such a possibility, in fact.

    On the other hand, I can’t write off the cost of something unless I can afford to buy it in the first place…it’s a conspiracy, I say!

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