CUC lab conducts outreach program in 4 schools

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(CUC) — To support Commonwealth Utilities Corp.’s outreach efforts, Gary Camacho, CUC’s executive director, approved a lab-based outreach project in four schools.

The outreach program began in November 2019 which gave four classrooms the opportunity to learn about water quality science from local experts who regularly test water around the CNMI.

CUC laboratory staff Heidi Yelin, Aaron Maruzzo, Brian Tangcoy, Kianna Atalig and Harland Delos Reyes pioneered this outreach project in hopes of connecting students to water quality science in the islands.

The CUC laboratory is a CNMI state-certified water quality laboratory that monitors CUC water and wastewater supplies. In the summer of 2019, laboratory analyst Aaron Maruzzo identified more testing reagents and supplies than what was needed. Instead of letting those supplies go to waste, Maruzzo discovered an opportunity for the lab team to use these extra resources to support science education about an everyday natural resource in the CNMI.

From a lecture on coliform testing to a junior-level microbiology class at Northern Marianas College, to modeling an aquifer with students at Brilliant Star Montessori and Isla Montessori Schools, each lesson was tailored for each classroom. Students were given the excess supplies to collect their own water samples, and over 50 water samples were analyzed for coliform bacteria.

A student survey reported an above average satisfaction rating with the CUC lab outreach project and most students reported an eagerness to learn more about water quality.

Luz Baldazo from Mt. Carmel High School says, “We are truly grateful with [the CUC lab’s] help and my AP Biology and AP Environmental Science students were so happy for what they have learned.”

“The outreach was a low-cost community service project that highlights the CUC lab’s efforts to provide information about drinking water quality and the exciting environmental science that happens each day in the lab,” Maruzzo says. “We were happy to tum excess reagents into an opportunity for the local community, and look forward to continue doing this kind of work.” Laboratory technician Tangcoy added, “I was enthusiastic to share information of what we do in the lab, and how it benefits students!”

For community members interested in learning the most recent information about their water quality, see the CUC lab’s 2018 water quality reports for Saipan, Tinian, and Rota at the CUC website www.cucgov.org/operations/waterwastewater/.

The CUC lab looks forward to continue helping community members and young scientists learn more about water quality.

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