The Fate and Transport of Emerging Contaminants in the Environment
Mentor: Dr. Thomas Holsen
Department: Civil and Environmental Engineering
Past human activities have resulted in the emissions of a substantial number of harmful chemicals into the environment. Many of these chemicals, for example PCBs, have been banned for decades but can still be found in dangerously high concentrations in some biota. Today there are approximately 30,000 chemical substances in wide commercial use (>907 kg/year) that could potentially cause similar problems as these legacy chemicals. For the most part they have not been looked for in environmental media, and their emissions and fate are unknown. In this project the REU participant will help determine the fate and transport of some commercial chemicals that might be persistent and bioaccumulative and that are not being considered in current contaminant measurement programs. The REU student will work within a team of undergraduate and graduate researchers using novel techniques to measure these contaminants in lake water and biota. These techniques will be used to investigate if these contaminants are accumulating in the environment. It is expected that the results will: 1) provide valuable information about these new chemicals, 2) produce measurements of these chemicals in water bodies and throughout the food chain for the first time, 3) help in the understanding of the processes responsible for pollutant cycling in the environment and 4) provide important information for regulators who may need to control the use of these chemicals.