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Experimental Stream Facility

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P&G Beauty & Grooming zoom

P&G Beauty & Grooming zoom

P&G Beauty & Grooming zoom

P&G Beauty & Grooming zoom

The Idea

From 1987 to 2001, P&G operated an Experimental Stream Facility (ESF) to test the impact of enzyme ingredients on aquatic ecosystems. The facility provided an excellent balance between the controlled conditions of the laboratory and the variability of the natural environment that is required to sustain natural communities.

The Location

The water running through the facility is pumped from the Lower East Fork River (LEFR) in Milford, Ohio. It is a high quality river rated as an exceptional warm water fishery by the Ohio EPA. Facility scientists have performed studies to understand the relationships between dynamics of biota in the LEFR with those in the ESF, like insect emergence, invertebrate drift, or benthic invertebrate and microbial community investigations.


Flow rates of river water, test chemicals and sewage effluents are precisely controlled at the head of each stream. Because some streams receive test chemical "doses" while others do not, it is possible to distinguish chemical effects from natural environmental influences on stream organisms. Such an experimental approach is not possible in field investigations. Quality of incoming and outgoing river water and effluents can be automatically monitored and recorded every few minutes on:

  • Temperature
  • pH
  • Dissolved oxygen
  • Conductivity
  • Stream flows (light levels, temperature and humidity)
  • Weather conditions (rainfall, solar radiation, temperature, humidity and barometric pressure) 

These data are relayed to a central computer system for storage and analysis.

The biological communities in the ESF can be very complex, and include sensitive organisms such as diatoms, mayflies and stoneflies. Recent research efforts have aimed to understand feeding relationships, energy flow, and life cycle characteristics of the biota.

Energy flow through this food chain begins with bacteria and algae and terminates with large predatory organisms such as hellgrammites. Over 1500 different aquatic species have been identified from the facility's streams in the past decade. In addition to evaluating natural stream populations, selected organisms such as clams, insects, amphipods, snails and fish, are placed in chambers to determine responses to test chemicals. Comparisons between standard tests and communities in stream channels provide important information in risk assessments.


In the 14 years of use by P&G, the facility met virtually all of P&G's goals, which were:

  • Understanding the interaction between stream organisms and consumer product chemicals.
  • Assessing the relative sensitivity of acute, chronic and mesocosm studies for understanding the toxicity of consumer product chemicals in the environment.
  • Assessing the ability of laboratory fate tests to understand fate in surface waters.

Throughout this time period, P&G scientists involved over 50 scientists from academic, consultancy and government research institutes to work with the team on stream studies designed to understand the fate and effects of consumer product chemicals.


By 2001, however, it became apparent that the facility could have a greater impact on the science of stream ecology if even more scientists from outside the company could have access to this wonderful facility. To accomplish this, scientists would have to control all aspects of the facility from study identification and design to changes in stream configurations.

Hence, in 2002 P&G donated the Experimental Stream Facility to the Centre for Aquatic Bio-assessment and Bio-Criteria. This non-profit centre is directed by Dr. Brian Armitage, an internationally respected stream ecologist.

Dr. Armitage is now working with local, state and federal government scientists and universities from the area to identify the research they want to conduct within the facility.

Of course, P&G continues to support this effort financially and fully intends to conduct stream research at the facility in the future.

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