Superfund Research Program
Dartmouth SRP Citizen Science Project Receives Local Attention
Northeast news sources recently featured an ongoing Dartmouth College Superfund Research Program (Dartmouth SRP) citizen science project with high school science classes in New Hampshire and Vermont. Articles in the Valley News and Berlin Daily Sun, New Hampshire newspapers, and on WCAX, a local Vermont news source, covered the work from high school classes around the region.
A partnership with the Schoodic Education and Research Center in Maine, the project introduces high school students to environmental health concepts and provides a real-world example of how science works by sampling dragonfly larvae for mercury. Dartmouth SRP has been running the project for three years, and it has become virtually self-sustaining.
This year, Dartmouth SRP trainee Kate Buckman presented to all the science classes and led the project in each of the high school classes. Students learned that when dragonflies hatch, they spend a few years in water searching for food and can build up mercury content from the food, making them good indicators of mercury levels in the water.
The students collected dragonfly larvae samples and sent them to the Dartmouth SRP Trace Metals Core to measure mercury content. They also came up with a hypothesis to help better understand mercury. For example, one student used weather data to see if mercury levels in one area were linked to humidity. At the end of the fall semester, students had the opportunity to present their research at Dartmouth College.
SRP Research Shines at Battelle Conference
Superfund Research Program (SRP) staff and grantees were well represented at the Eighth International Conference on Remediation and Management of Contaminated Sediments, January 12-15, 2015, organized and presented by Battelle and other sponsors.
More than 900 scientists, engineers, regulators, remediation site owners, constructors, and other environmental professionals convened to share research results, practical experiences, and opportunities for cleaning up sediments in aquatic environments.
Heather Henry, Ph.D., a SRP health scientist administrator, gave a presentation about new tools and approaches from the SRP for site monitoring and exposure measurement in contaminated sediments, particularly simple-to-use and economical passive sampling devices that can monitor sediment cleanup sites. She highlighted SRP-funded tools capable of measuring more than one chemical at a time and ongoing work to validate tools for monitoring changes during site remediation. She also explained how the tools can be integrated into health research by assessing a variety of exposures to humans.
SRP grantee Damian Shea, Ph.D., a professor at North Carolina State University, chaired a session on innovative characterization of assessment tools. Shea is developing a universal passive sampling device to measure a wide-range of chemicals in water, sediment, and soil (learn more on the University of North Carolina SRP Center website).
SRP grantee Upal Ghosh, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore Country, gave a presentation about his innovative cleanup project that uses activated carbon technology and passive samplers to monitor the effectiveness of the remediation technology (read more in the Environmental Factor).
The conference provided opportunity for SRP staff members Alicia Lawson and Henry to meet with SRP grantees and provide guidance on continuing efforts related to measuring contaminants in sediment.
SRP-Funded Technology Converts Waste into a Resource
A Superfund Research Program (SRP) small business grantee revealed how copper can be profitably removed from mine waste. Patrick James, Ph.D., the president and CEO of the SRP-funded small business Blue Planet Strategies (BPS) described his technology in this month’s Mining Engineering magazine.
BPS has developed and patented the Dynamic Electrolytic Mine Effluent Treatment (DEMET) technology, which leverages well-established and scalable processes to make a profit from extracting copper from what has been considered waste in the past. The technology uses electricity to cost effectively concentrate copper from waste generated as a result of mining operations. The concentrated product can then be used in conventional processing systems to recover copper.
James and his team are working to apply the DEMET system to a variety of additional metals including iron, nickel, zinc, gold, and silver. This system creates an economic driver to promote environmental cleanups by targeting metals that are profitable once removed. This is particularly valuable for abandoned mine sites nationwide where no previous economic incentive for cleanup existed.
More information is available in the Mining Engineering online exclusive publication.