Navigation Links
Water, water, everywhere... but is it safe to drink?

This release is available in French.

"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 technologiesusing 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 changereferred to as an isotopic signaturethat 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 waterand especially our supply of groundwateris 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.

Contact: Michael Adams
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council

Related biology technology :

1. Water, water, everywhere but is it safe to drink?
Post Your Comments:
(Date:10/10/2017)... CALIFORNIA (PRWEB) , ... October 10, 2017 , ... ... technological innovation and business process optimization firm for the life sciences and healthcare ... BoxWorks conference in San Francisco. , The presentation, “Automating GxP Validation for ...
(Date:10/9/2017)... , Oct. 9, 2017  BioTech Holdings announced ... by which its ProCell stem cell therapy prevents ... ischemia.  The Company, demonstrated that treatment with ProCell ... limbs saved as compared to standard bone marrow ... HGF resulted in reduction of therapeutic effect.  ...
(Date:10/9/2017)... ... October 09, 2017 , ... At its national board meeting in ... professor in Harvard University’s Departments of Physics and Astronomy, has been selected for membership ... the winning team for the 2015 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental physics for the discovery ...
(Date:10/9/2017)... ... October 09, 2017 , ... ... medical journal, Epilepsia, Brain Sentinel’s SPEAC® System which uses the surface electromyography ... generalized tonic-clonic seizures (GTCS) using surface electromyography (sEMG). The prospective multicenter phase ...
Breaking Biology Technology:
(Date:4/3/2017)... WASHINGTON , April 3, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ ... single-cell precision engineering platform, detected a statistically ... cell product prior to treatment and objective ... highlight the potential to predict whether cancer ... prior to treatment, as well as to ...
(Date:3/29/2017)... , March 29, 2017  higi, the health IT ... North America , today announced a ... the acquisition of EveryMove. The new investment and acquisition ... of tools to transform population health activities through the ... data. higi collects and secures data today ...
(Date:3/24/2017)... 2017 Research and Markets has announced the ... & Trends - Industry Forecast to 2025" report to their ... The Global ... CAGR of around 15.1% over the next decade to reach approximately ... the market estimates and forecasts for all the given segments on ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):