MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

November 25, 2012

Thirsty? Thank him

Science lover helps keep city’s water drinkable

— A few drops of solution turns water in a beaker from clear to a cherry Kool-Aid red. Stephen Morton adds another solution and the cherry color turns grape purple.

“This is probably the coolest part of the day because you’re actually doing chemistry,” Morton said.

As a maintenance supervisor and interim chemist at the city of Muskogee water treatment plant, Morton has several opportunities to do chemistry. It’s a scientific passion that Morton, 40, has enjoyed since he got his first chemistry set.

“I probably got my first set when I was 11, and I realized this science thing is pretty cool,” he said, recalling that the first set had a microscope, various stones such as iron pyrite or fool’s gold and a small set of basic acids and bases. He started mixing things together and marveled at the reaction.

Morton said simple acids such as vinegar and bases such as baking soda cause a chemical reaction when they’re mixed.

“In large amounts you get a large chemical reaction, you get a volcano, you get a science fair project,” he said. “Why do they react the way they do?”

Morton recalled entering science fairs at Fort Gibson, usually with volcanos because “volcanos are easy to construct, easy to erupt.”

“In high school and junior high I was very interested in science,” he said. “One of my favorite subjects was earth science in junior high. Chemistry and physics intrigued me once I got into high school.”

Morton has worked for the city of Muskogee for at least 17 years. Although his title is maintenance supervisor, he has filled in as an interim chemist “a couple of times.”

He conducts several tests including the calcium carbonate test, the one that caused the water to change colors.

“The calcium carbonate tests lets us know if the water is on the corrosive side or depository side,” Morton said, explaining that “depository” means the amount of deposits in the water.

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