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Assessing Water Quality After a Storm

December 1, 2017

CEE Professors April Gu (PI), Akram Alshawabkeh (co-PI), and Assistant Professor Ameet Pinto (co-PI) were awarded a $100K NSF grant to determine a "Timely Assessment of Water Quality to Reveal the Potential Ecological and Health Impact of Hurricanes at Puerto Rico".

Abstract Source: NSF

Back-to-back hurricanes in Puerto Rico have caused much of the sewage treatment infrastructure on the island to be non-operational. As a result, raw sewage and other contaminants have been released into coastal waters, streams, and rivers. Understanding the impact of catastrophic events like hurricanes on water distribution systems requires rapid data acquisition soon after the event. The goal of this project is to provide water quality toxicity data to assess the recovery process in Puerto Rico's drinking water supply and surface water. This will be done using novel state-of-the-art toxicity assays developed by the research team. The results of this research will provide a one-of-a-kind opportunity to quantify risks to public health during recovery.

The study will apply next-generation, toxicogenomics-enabled in vitro assays for timely and informative water quality monitoring, coupled with strain-resolved metagenomic data to identify risks originating from the presence of a host of microbial pathogens. The results have the potential to lead to a paradigm shift in water remediation efficacy assessment from older methods that frequently suffer from bias and limited chemical and microbiological information. This will provide timely and useful information needed to facilitate containment and response strategies development and, to help inform the public and government of any potential ecological and health impacts associated the recent extreme weather events.