Southeast Students Present Findings from Soil Study to City


Research on city’s lead levels finds good results


April 17, 2006 – Two Southeast students presented their findings from a recent study on the levels of lead in the city’s soil at a Cape Girardeau Planning and Zoning Commission meeting last week.

Students Jennifer Kelley, a senior environmental geoscience major from Cape Girardeau, Mo., and Emily Westhoff, a senior environmental science major from Jackson, Mo., worked with Dr. Michael Aide, professor of physics and engineering physics at Southeast, to conduct the study. Aide is a certified soil scientist who specializes in environmental soil chemistry.

“We studied four sites in the City of Cape Girardeau to estimate the amount of lead in soils because of atmospheric deposition, presumably because of leaded gasoline,” Aide said. “Our findings indicate the lead content of these soils is attributed to the parent materials (the soil itself) and no appreciable lead concentrations may be attributed to human activity,” he added.

“Many communities in the Midwest have an elevated concentration of lead in the soil, which poses risks to human health and to the environment,” Kelley said. “We selected sample sites in Cape that are representative of a typical homeowner’s residence and found only an incidental lead increase relative to what is normal for the area. This study could be used as a foundation to monitor the human impact over time,” she added.

The study provided an excellent learning opportunity on many levels, according to Westhoff.

“This project was a valuable experience,” she said. “We were able to contribute in many ways to the study. We collected samples at the study site, reviewed and condensed the data, worked with Dr. Aide on the paper, and presented our findings to the Planning and Zoning Commission.”

Aide said the site study was conducted over the past year. Two research sites were located near the Osage Community Centre, while the other two sites were located in northern portions of the city near the Mississippi River.