They wade in rivers. They explore storm drains. They test any water they can get their hands on. They are the Storm Drain Detectives.
Students from Lodi, Tokay and Jim Elliot Christian high schools and Lodi Academy formed teams to explore nine sites along the Mokelumne River and Lodi Lake. The first site is slightly east of Lodi, and serves as a base reading before any runoff from the city hits the river.
The ninth site is west of Lodi, and shows the full extent of the city's effect on the waterway.
The program began in the 1960s as a way to relieve the city of part of a fine for polluting the river. Later, two students continued the work for their senior project, and the Storm Drain Detectives have been testing Lodi water ever since.
Lodi Lake docent Kathy Grant has run the program for nearly a decade. She was recognized by Deputy Public Works Director Larry Parlin on Thursday evening for her dedication.
Teens use sophisticated equipment to measure temperature, pH balance, nitrate levels, and turbidity, or clarity, of the water. This year, a record 98 students completed the program.
On Thursday, students from Melissa Turner's honors biology class presented their findings from a year of testing.
"It was a great experience to see how our community affects the water quality," said Delany Lund, a student presenter.
The hardest part was learning to calibrate each different instrument. They must be set to medium before tests to get an accurate reading, said Sam Gillespie, a student presenter.
The data they found was consistent with last year's, said Grant, but there was more drama in getting this year's results because they took data during five different rainstorms.
"After the rainfall, you see the first immediate changes to the river. You can really see the drains at work," said Emily McClung.
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at email@example.com.