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Oct 10, 2019

Researchers from the University of Florida Conduct a Water Quality Assessment of the Entire New River

The state of the New River has been showing some signs of recovery with some help from the rains, but tests are still being conducted to determine the quality of the water. Over the past months, businesses, residents and students were impacted by the adverse condition of the river.  Researchers from the U.S. have been working since the start of the week and while they have concluded test sampling, results will take some time. At this point, however, they have found a high level of dissolved oxygen. Duane Moody and Dalila Ical put together this story.


Duane Moody, Reporting

A group of four researchers from the University of Florida are in Belize this week extracting water and sediment samples from the entire length of the New River. The team is working in collaboration with the Department of the Environment and are collecting data to conduct a comprehensive water quality assessment.


Dr. Dail Laughinghouse, Assistant Professor, Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center, UF

“You’re looking at D.O.; you are looking at turbidity, you are looking at, so dissolved oxygen, turbidity, chlorophyll, salinity and conductivity. So, those are things we are looking at. yeah, and PH of course. We’re doing nitrites, nitrates, ammonium, total phosphorus and community structure as well and metals.”


The team has been working up to ten hours per day over the last three days.


Venetia Briggs-Gonzalez

Dr. Venetia Briggs-Gonzalez, Research Ecologist, UF/Team Leader

“We have observed the river has a lot of different uses along the distance. There is definitely discharge along, pretty much the entirety of the river. Multiple uses and in areas closer to the lagoon the water is really nice, really clean.”


The results of samples taken won’t be in for several months, but the team has been able to read the oxygen levels along the length of the river. The highest readings were found at the lagoon.


Dr. Dail Laughinghouse

“It was around ninety-something percent oxygen in the water.”



“Ninety something percent?”


Dail Laughinghouse

Dr. Dail Laughinghouse

“Ninety-two, ninety-three, i think it was all the way down to ten meters more or less because we were looking at surface, one meter, three meters; ten meters as long as you go down because some parts of the river are not three meters or five meters right. So we did that and dissolved oxygen is one of the parameters we did because you can do that monitoring so there are certain things you do in the lab and there are certain things you can do out in the field.”


Dr. Venetia Briggs-Gonzalez

“Once we leave the lagoon, the river itself as it becomes the river have very low levels of oxygen. We have samples at different levels like Dr. Laughinghouse said but for sure the landscape that we know anywhere from up from the lagoon throughout Orange Walk and up into the Villages all have very low D.O.”


According to the researchers, while their visit and work will shed more light into what lies within the river, it will take repeated testings to fully comprehend what is affecting it and how, especially since the ecosystem constantly shifts from day today.


Dr. Venetia Briggs-Gonzalez

“That’s the goal, is to establish this as a long-term system to look at it, because what we are capturing now clearly is a snapshot in time and everyone knows that for the past few weeks there has been a lot of differences happening on the river. We can only tell you about what we see right now. We might see some water going into the river but we have no idea where it’s coming from, so this is where our local people and our D.O.E., that’s where, that’s the information that you all will be able to provide. That’s not something we know. We can only tell you what’s in the water and that’s why for us it’s a huge mystery, right. We have parts of the puzzle and so in order to put the parts of the puzzle together we need all the pieces and this is where everybody has to work together.”


In the meantime, the team warns communities living along the New River to exercise caution.


Dr. Venetia Briggs-Gonzalez

“A few things straight off the bat. Don’t go in the water. Don’t drink the water. Don’t swim in the water. Don’t play in the water. Your dogs don’t drink the water. Don’t eat the fish. Because we don’t know enough. We are collecting the data right now and everything that we do along the river, everyone’s wearing gloves. So if we are doing that, you don’t want your children to go in there. But the first thing along the way is that everything that goes in the water right now, that has to stop and as residents of the community it’s everyone’s responsibility to sort of take ownership. I can’t put things in the water, whatever it is. As you start to think about how  you run your household, how your businesses run. Different things like that, things just can’t go in the water. The river provides a service, an environmental service and we have to give it an opportunity to do that, but if we are constantly putting things into it, we are not giving it the opportunity to do that.”


Duane Moody for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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