Rather than dredging up the problem, or burying it under several feet of sand, they've created a patch � black geotextile mats designed to cap and stabilize pollution in place. Over the next two years, UNH associate professor Kevin Gardner, research assistant professor Jeffrey Melton, and a team of UNH students will monitor these mats to evaluate the effectiveness of this new approach.
"We need to know how these mats behave when they're buried under mud for a few years, compared to how they performed in the lab," says Melton. "What will happen to them in this intertidal zone with boats, waves, birds, and weather? How will they impact bugs and other aquatic life in the sediment?"
The mats are six feet square and one inch thick. They consist of a mixture of reactive materials sandwiched between two layers of geotextile fabric, creating a sort of quilt that traps pollutants but allows water to flow through. The reactive "filling" of this quilt contains three different substances that bind and stabilize different pollutants. One such substance � a UNH-patented technology based on a natural form of phosphorus � treats toxic heavy metals associated with industrial pollution such as lead, copper, zinc and cadmium.
"But you don't just find one pollutant at a site," says Melton. "Everything is all mixed up in the sediment." So he and his colleagues added organoclay and activated charcoal ("like in your Brita filter," he says), which adhere to and treat toxic chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polyaromatic hydrocarbons, (PAHs), and petroleum products that routinely enter waterways through stormwater runoff.
The project is funded by the Cooperative Institute for Coastal and Estuarine Environmental Technology (CICEET), a partnership of UNH and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and NH Sea Grant.
"Polluted sediment is a nationwide problem," says Richard Langan, CICEET's UNH co-director. "We need better tools to identify and treat areas where this pollution has the potential to threaten human and ecosystem health. Technology demonstrations like these, that take advantage of cutting-edge science, are key to making that happen."
The mats present an alternative approach to remediating contaminated sediment; more common responses include dredging or capping sediment beneath several feet of sand. But dredging is expensive, disrupts habitats and poses the problem of how to move - and where to put - all that toxic sediment. Sand caps have questionable long-term effectiveness and can hinder boat traffic and impact aquatic life. "There's no silver bullet. What we are exploring is potentially a great tool to add to the tool box," says Melton.
Melton admits that even as Americans grow increasingly aware of environmental woes, sediment pollution does not score high on the "green glamour" scale. Yet, he points out, everyone is already feeling its impact through regular advisories that close shellfish beds or warn of eating fish contaminated by heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants like PCBs or PAHs.
"You can enjoy a great day of fishing, but if you can't eat the catch, there's a problem," says Melton. It's estimated that 20 percent of the top six inches of all sediment in U.S. rivers, lakes, streams and estuaries is contaminated. In 2004, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported there were 3,221 fish consumption advisories in state waters.
Melton and Gardner chose the Cocheco not because its sediment is especially polluted, but rather because its characteristics as a well-used tidal river and its proximity to UNH make it an ideal laboratory. They plan to compare the performance of the mats in the Cocheco to those they've laid in Cottonwood Bay in Grand Prairie, Texas, adjacent to the Dallas National Air Station, in a demonstration funded by the Department of Defense's Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP).
Moving forward, researchers from the Contaminated Sediments Center, part of UNH's Environmental Research Group, plan to test new sampling technologies that measure the scope and potential threat of contamination in sediment. In addition, they're always on the lookout for new test sites.
To learn more about UNH's Contaminated Sediments Center, go to http://www.unh.edu/erg/ccsr/index.html.
Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
15.09.2017 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen
A new indicator for marine ecosystem changes: the diatom/dinoflagellate index
21.08.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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