Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Water, water, everywhere… but is it safe to drink?

21.02.2011
"Over the last couple of generations, there has been a huge amount of groundwater pollution worldwide, and this has had a negative impact on our drinking water supply," says Barbara Sherwood Lollar, Canada Research Chair in Isotope Geochemistry of the Earth and the Environment at the University of Toronto.

Sherwood Lollar is taking part in the THINK CANADA Press Breakfast Sunday at AAAS. Her research examines society's efforts to reverse and stop groundwater pollution, and the effectiveness of bioremediation technologies—using microbes to clean up organic contaminants such as petroleum hydrocarbons (oil, gasoline or diesel) or chemicals used in the electronics or transportation industries.

While the disposal of these organic contaminants tends to be well regulated today, this has not always been the case. Lax regulations and enforcement during the period immediately after the Second World War has left Europe and North America with a legacy of past contamination.

"This contamination has had a pervasive impact on the environment," says Sherwood Lollar. "It is still out there, and it needs to be dealt with."

Over the past decade, many techniques used to clean up groundwater contamination have harnessed the power of microbiology and the work of geochemists like Sherwood Lollar. "We are not genetically engineering microbes," she explains. "In many settings, naturally occurring microbes feed off the organic contaminants and, in the process, convert them to non-toxic end products."

Until now, the real difficulty has been in proving that the process exists and that the microbes are actually cleaning up the contaminants. Sherwood Lollar has developed techniques that show where the clean-up is happening and, just as importantly, where it is not.

"Elements like carbon have different stable isotopes: Carbon-12 and Carbon-13. One is slightly heavier than the other, and the microbes tend to feed mostly on the lighter one. When the microbes have been working for some time, the ratio of heavy-to-light carbon will change. It is this change—referred to as an isotopic signature—that lets us know the water is being cleaned up," says Sherwood Lollar.

By cleaning up contaminated groundwater, it is possible to recuperate what would otherwise be a lost resource. The technique is starting to be used by regulators, and Sherwood Lollar is working with an international group of scientists to put together a guidance document for the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

This will provide a set of recommendations about use in the field for practitioners, which will be a first step towards mainstreaming the technique.

"It's a common misconception that water—and especially our supply of groundwater—is a renewable resource," says Sherwood Lollar. "But it isn't. So, it is particularly important that we manage it well and that we do whatever we can to conserve, protect and remediate what we have."

Sherwood Lollar will present her research and answer questions from the press, as part of the THINK CANADA Press Breakfast on the theme of water. The breakfast will be held in Room 202A of the Washington Convention Center at 8 a.m. on February 20, 2011 and will feature Canadian research experts across natural sciences and engineering, health, social sciences and humanities.

Michael Adams | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.sshrc-crsh.gc.ca

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Global threat to primates concerns us all
19.01.2017 | Deutsches Primatenzentrum GmbH - Leibniz-Institut für Primatenforschung

nachricht Reducing household waste with less energy
18.01.2017 | FIZ Karlsruhe – Leibniz-Institut für Informationsinfrastruktur GmbH

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Helmholtz International Fellow Award for Sarah Amalia Teichmann

20.01.2017 | Awards Funding

An innovative high-performance material: biofibers made from green lacewing silk

20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery

20.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>