Superfund Research Program
A Community Garden as a Living Laboratory
On March 24, Superfund Research Program (SRP) staff members visited the Ocean View Community Garden in San Diego. SRP scientists from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), are working with local residents to transform a vacant lot into a community garden. Since the garden is on a brownfields site, the scientists are testing the fruits and vegetables grown on the site to make sure they are safe before they are eaten, and working closely with the community to communicate the results.
A brownfields site is an abandoned or underused piece of land previously used for industrial or commercial purposes that may be contaminated by low concentrations of hazardous waste or pollution. UCSD SRP researchers, including doctoral student Andrew Cooper, are analyzing plant tissues from the community garden and monitoring any heavy metal accumulation over time that may be taking place in these plants. They are also determining how stormwater retention structures at the community garden may affect the fate and transport of toxicants, and reduce potential for contamination in the fruits and vegetables, by measuring how soil contaminants change within the context of storm water management.
SRP staff Michelle Heacock, Ph.D., Heather Henry, Ph.D., and Bill Suk, Ph.D. recently toured the site to learn more about the innovative urban garden. Keith Pezzoli, Ph.D., the UCSD SRP Center Research Translation Core leader, gave an overview of the initiatives being conducted at the site.
Formerly a food desert — a city area that lacks supermarkets or farmers markets — the Ocean View Community Garden offers a gathering place for people to grow food, socialize with their neighbors and hold events, and provides an opportunity to learn about urban agriculture.
Henry and Ranville Visit EPA Region 8, Meet Government Stakeholders
Superfund Research Program (SRP) Administrator Heather Henry, Ph.D., visited the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 8 office in Denver, Colorado, to learn about the needs of EPA and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) in Region 8 and to showcase SRP work.
Colorado School of Mines (CSM) grantees Jim Ranville, Ph.D., the individual project leader, and Jake Williamson, Ph.D., an SRP trainee, were also at the meeting. They described their work at the North Fork of the Clear Creek, a Superfund site in Colorado.
The CSM group has established an excellent network of researchers who are working together to understand metal recovery in the stream system impacted by acid mine drainage. Ranville and Williamson discussed their SRP project to detect, characterize, and assess the risks posed by contaminant metal mixtures. The EPA visit also gave EPA and ATSDR staff the opportunity to talk about big issues in Region 8 and speak with Henry about SRP researchers who are working on these issues.
Region 8 Regional Science Liaison, Patti Tyler, coordinated the visit. Attendees also included ATSDR Region 8 Regional Director Captain Dan Strausbaugh and other regional representatives, including Kristen Keteles, Ph.D., a Region 8 toxicologist and former Dartmouth College SRP Center trainee under the guidance of Celia Chen, Ph.D.
Convening at the American Chemical Society Meeting in Denver
Henry, Ranville, and Williamson were in Denver for the American Chemical Society (ACS) session “Bioavailability and Biogeochemical Interactions Affecting Remediation of Hazardous Substances in the Environment,” which was co-chaired by Henry and Ranville. The session also features several other SRP grantees, including researchers from the University of Arizona, Michigan State University, University of Iowa, and Oregon State University (OSU). Of note, Marc Elie, a postdoctoral trainee at the OSU SRP Center who gave a presentation during the ACS meeting, received acknowledgment as Best Presentation in the Assessing the Toxicity of Environmental Contaminants symposium.
SRP Well Represented at 2015 SOT Meeting
Superfund Research Program (SRP) grantees from all over the country gathered in San Diego, California, for the Society of Toxicology Annual Meeting (SOT) March 23-27. SOT provides an opportunity to highlight advancements in the science of toxicology, and several grantees gave scientific talks and presented posters during the meeting.
SRP grantees were also recognized with awards during the meeting. Brown University SRP Center Director Kim Boekelheide, Ph.D., received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the SOT Reproductive and Developmental Toxicology Specialty Section. Duke University SRP Center scientist Theodore Slotkin, Ph.D., was chosen to receive the 2015 SOT Education Award.
Students were well represented from a variety of SRP Centers and received a number of awards:
- Michigan State University SRP Center graduate student Kelly Fader was presented with first place Student Research Award from the SOT Molecular & Systems Biology specialty section.
- University of California, Berkeley SRP trainee Finna Sille received an SOT Immunotoxicology Specialty Section Young Investigator Travel Award.
- University of North Carolina SRP trainee Yongquan Lai received an SOT poster award from the Risk Assessment Specialty Section.
- University of Arizona SRP Center trainee Eric Deitzel was a finalist for the SOT Mechanisms Specialty Section Carl C. Smith Award.
SRP staff members were also on hand at the meeting to talk with grantees and learn about more about SRP research being conducted in the field of toxicology.
UA SRP Forms Collaboration with Bolivian Mining Group
To establish a collaboration focused on best mining practices, a group from Summit Mining and the San Cristóbal Mine in Potosí, Bolivia, visited the University of Arizona Superfund Research Program (UA SRP) in March 2015. Participants in the day-and-a-half-long meeting discussed a wide range of issues at the San Cristóbal Mine as well as UA SRP research in areas of interest to the mining industry.
In semiarid environments such as the Southwestern United States, mining operations are an important source of airborne metal contaminants. Trace metals can be mobilized through dispersal of dust particles emitted from mine waste as well as in fumes. At UA SRP, researchers are characterizing dust from mine waste and other mining operations. They are also experimenting with using plants to stabilize contaminants from mine waste so they remain in the ground, preventing transport to nearby communities. In addition to the research projects, they are reaching out and creating educational materials to inform nearby communities of potential risks from mine waste.
Because sustainable management of mining wastes is a global challenge facing the mining industry, partners from Summit Mining and the San Cristóbal Mine discussed research at UA SRP related to understanding and reducing health effects from mine waste. Following the meeting, the visitors toured four mine sites where UA SRP is currently working.
As the next step in this collaboration, UA SRP researchers were invited to visit their colleagues in Bolivia. There, they will tour the San Cristóbal Mine, discuss potential collaborative research projects in more detail, and develop a mechanism for Bolivian students from Tomás Frías Autonomous University to visit UA for specialized training.