Registration is Open for Emerging Contaminants Conference

Join us on May 21-22 for the 2019 Emerging Contaminants in the Environment Conference (ECEC19). Registration will be open until May 3. View the draft agenda on the ECEC19 website.

About the Conference

ECEC19 will be held on May 21-22, 2019, at the Hilton Garden Inn in Champaign, IL. This year the conference will expand beyond the aquatic environment to also include air and soil studies along with effects on human and animal health.

The conference will feature presentations and posters on the latest in emerging contaminant research, policies, and outreach. In addition, there will be plenty of opportunities for discussion and networking with those interested in all aspects of emerging contaminants in the environment.

Researchers, educators, businesses, government officials, regulatory agencies, policy makers, outreach and extension professionals, environmental groups, members of the general public, and medical, veterinary, and public health professionals are encouraged to attend the conference.

The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center and the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant are cohosting this conference.

Keynote Speakers

  • Thomas Bruton – PFAS Research and Policy Lead, Green Science Policy Institute
  • Robert C. Hale – Professor of Marine Science, Virginia Institute of Marine Science
  • Susan D. Richardson – Arthur Sease Williams Professor of Chemistry, University of South Carolina

Read more about the keynotes.

Panelists

  • Thomas Burton – PFAS Research and Policy Lead, Green Science Policy Institute
  • Iseult Lynch – Professor and Chair of Environmental Nanosciences at the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham
  • Yujie Men – Assistant Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • Katie Nyquist – Principal Planner for the Contaminants of Emerging Concern Initiative at the Minnesota Department of Health
  • Heiko Schoenfuss – Director of Aquatic Toxicology Laboratory and Professor of Anatomy at St. Cloud State University
  • Krista Wigginton – Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Michigan

Read more about the panelists.

 

Microplastic contamination found in common source of groundwater, researchers report

by Lois Yoksoulian – Physical Sciences Editor of U of I News Bureau

Microplastics contaminate the world’s surface waters, yet scientists have only just begun to explore their presence in groundwater systems. A new study is the first to report microplastics in fractured limestone aquifers – a groundwater source that accounts for 25 percent of the global drinking water supply.

The study identified microplastic fibers, along with a variety of medicines and household contaminants, in two aquifer systems in Illinois. The findings are published in the journal Groundwater.

“Plastic in the environment breaks down into microscopic particles that can end up in the guts and gills of marine life, exposing the animals to chemicals in the plastic,” said John Scott, a researcher at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center and study co-author. “As the plastics break down, they act like sponges that soak up contaminants and microbes and can ultimately work their way into our food supply.”

ISTC Senior Analytical Chemist John W Scott loads water samples into an analytical pyroprobe that feeds into a gas chromatograph and mass spectrometer to analyze the water sample for the presence of plastic microfiber contamination. The testing work done in the labs at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has found that plastic polymers are now found in fractured limestone aquifers. Photo by Fred Zwicky, University of Illinois News Bureau
ISTC Senior Analytical Chemist John W Scott loads water samples into an analytical pyroprobe that feeds into a gas chromatograph and mass spectrometer to analyze the water sample for the presence of plastic microfiber contamination. The testing work done in the labs at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has found that plastic polymers are now found in fractured limestone aquifers. Photo by Fred Zwicky, University of Illinois News Bureau

Groundwater flows through the cracks and voids in limestone, sometimes carrying sewage and runoff from roads, landfills and agricultural areas into the aquifers below, Scott said.

The researchers collected 17 groundwater samples from wells and springs – 11 from a highly fractured limestone aquifer near the St. Louis metropolitan area and six from an aquifer containing much smaller fractures in rural northwestern Illinois.

All but one of the 17 samples contained microplastic particles, with a maximum concentration of 15.2 particles per liter from a spring in the St. Louis area, the study reports. However, deciphering what that concentration means is a challenge, Scott said. There are no published risk assessment studies or regulations.

The researchers did find, however, that concentrations from their field areas are comparable to those of surface water concentrations found in the rivers and streams in the Chicago area, said Samuel V. Panno, an Illinois State Geological Survey researcher and lead author of the study.

“The research on this topic is at a very early stage, so I am not convinced we have a frame of reference to state expectations or bounds on what is considered low or high levels,” said Tim Hoellein, a biology professor at Loyola University Chicago and study co-author. “Our questions are still basic – how much is there and where is it coming from?”

The researchers identified a variety of household and personal health contaminants along with the microplastics, a hint that the fibers may have originated from household septic systems.

“Imagine how many thousands of polyester fibers find their way into a septic system from just doing a load of laundry,” Scott said. “Then consider the potential for those fluids to leak into the groundwater supply, especially in these types of aquifers where surface water interacts so readily with groundwater.”

There is still a monumental amount of work to be done on this subject, Scott said. He anticipates that microplastic contamination in both surface water and groundwater will be a problem for years to come.

“Even if we quit plastics cold turkey today, we will still deal with this issue for years because plastic never really goes away,” Scott said. “It is estimated that 6.3 billion metric tons of plastic waste have been produced since the 1940s, and 79 percent of that is now in landfills or the natural environment. To me, it is such a weird concept that these materials are intended for single use, yet they are designed to last forever.”

ISTC Senior Analytical Chemist John W Scott, front left, is joined in the labs at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana by co-author, ISGS researcher Sam Panno, far right, and fellow research team members, back row from left, Walt Kelly, Nancy Holm and Wei Zheng. Their research documents the presence of plastic microfiber contamination in fractured limestone aquifers. Photo by Fred Zwicky, University of Illinois News Bureau
ISTC Senior Analytical Chemist John W Scott, front left, is joined in the labs at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana by co-author, ISGS researcher Sam Panno, far right, and fellow research team members, back row from left, Walt Kelly, Nancy Holm and Wei Zheng. Their research documents the presence of plastic microfiber contamination in fractured limestone aquifers. Photo by Fred Zwicky, University of Illinois News Bureau

Walton R. Kelly of the Illinois State Water SurveyWei Zhang and Nancy Holm of ISTC;  Rachel E. McNeish of California State University, Bakersfield; Timothy J. Hoellein of Loyola University, Chicago; and Elizabeth L. Baranski of the League of Women Voters of Jo Daviess County also contributed to this research. The ISGS, ISWS and ISTC are part of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign.

The League of Women Voters of Jo Daviess County, ISGS, ISWS, ISTC, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and the National Science Foundation supported this research.

ISTC announces Spring 2019 sustainability seminars

ISTC has announced its schedule of sustainability seminars for Spring 2019. All seminars are held from noon-1 pm in the SJW Conference room at ISTC 1 Hazelwood Dr in Champaign. Metered parking ($1/hr) in the lot; bike parking; and yellow bus stops at Hazelwood and Oak.

The seminars are also broadcast via webinar for those who can’t attend in person. Register for each session using the links below. Archives of previous seminars are available at https://www.istc.illinois.edu/events/sustainability_seminars.

Thursday, February 7
Recent Advancements in Virus Detection and Monitoring
Speaker: Krista Rule Wigginton, Assistant Professor
University of Michigan Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Register for the free webinar

Abstract: Viruses are important pathogens that are commonly associated with contaminated water. Norovirus, for example, is a waterborne virus that is responsible for 10x more illnesses in the U.S. than the next most common waterborne pathogen. To address risks of waterborne virus illnesses, drinking water standards include enteric virus reduction requirements; however the utility of these standards is limited in the absence of methods that can demonstrate they are achieved. Viruses are very difficult to concentrate, purify, and identify. Detection typically relies on culture-based or PCR-based methods; however, most viruses are not readily cultured, and their lack of conserved genes and rapid evolution complicates PCR primer development and sequencing efforts. In this presentation, I will report on our work focused on improving virus detection and monitoring in wastewater and drinking water.

Thursday, February 21
Materials, Assembly Approaches, and Designs for Ultrahigh-Efficiency, Full-Spectrum Operation Photovoltaics and their Applications
Speaker: Ralph G. Nuzzo , G. L. Clark Professor of Chemistry, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Register for the webinar

Abstract: The production of integrated electronic circuits provides examples of the most advanced fabrication and assembly approaches that are generally characterized by large-scale integration of high-performance compact semiconductor elements that rely on rigid and essentially planar form factors. New methods of fabricating micro-scale semiconductor devices provide a set of enabling means to lift these constraints by engendering approaches to device configurations that would be impossible to realize with bulk, wafer-scale materials while retaining capacities for high (or altogether new forms of) electronic and/or optoelectronic performance. An exemplary case of interest in our work includes large-area integrated electro-optical systems for photovoltaic energy conversion that can provide a potentially transformational approach to supplant current technologies with high performance, low cost alternatives. In this talk I will highlight progress made in the collaborative research efforts that illustrate important opportunities for exploiting advances in optical and electronic materials in synergy with physical means of patterning, fabrication, and assembly to advance capabilities for photovoltaic energy conversion and highlight emerging applications for new materials and unconventional device form factors in high efficiency energy conversion technologies. Of particular interest are the materials, and new understandings of science, that will allow an efficient utilization of the full solar resource.

Thursday, March 7
Removal of Perfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) from Water Using Tailored and Highly Porous Organosilica Adsorbents
Speaker: Paul Edmiston ,Theron and Dorothy Peterson Professor of Chemistry and Analytical Chemist, The College of Wooster (Ohio)
Register for the free webinar

Abstract: Porous organosilicas with specific surface chemistries were developed as adsorbents for the selective removal of either perfluoroalkyl surfactants (PFASs) from water. Swellable organically modified silica (SOMS) materials were created that incorporated cationic and fluoroalkyl groups with the hypothesis that intermolecular interactions specific to PFASs would improve adsorption affinity and capacity. SOMS materials are useful in adsorbent design since they possess: i) the ability to swell to creates a continuous mesoporous structure, ii) a surface chemistry that can be tailored through synthesis or incorporation of polymer coatings to the pores, and iii) chemical stability to allow for regeneration in place. Adsorption kinetics, adsorption isotherms, and column breakthrough experiments were used to measure performance for a range of PFASs with variable chain length and chemical identity (PFDA, PFNA, PFOA, PFHpA, PFHxA, PFOeA, PFBA, PFOSA, PFxHs, PFOSA, and PFOSaAm). Organosilica materials show promise for allowing rational design of adsorbents used for remediation of PFAS impacted water. Adsorption mechanisms unique to SOMS will be presented in the context of treatment of wide range of water solutes for those with general interest in water purification technology.

Thursday, March 28
Modern Materials: New Methods in Manufacturing and Remediation
Speaker: Adam M. Feinberg, postdoctoral researcher, University of Illinois Autonomous Materials Systems (AMS) Group
Register for the free webinar

Abstract: This seminar will discuss topics at the beginning and the end of the material lifecycle. At the beginning of the material lifecycle, a new material manufacturing method will be discussed – morphogenic manufacturing, i.e. the generation of pattern and structure without machining or molding. Unstable reaction propagation during frontal ring-opening metathesis polymerization (FROMP) of dicyclopentadiene (DCPD) has been harnessed to generate spatially-resolved patterns in pDCPD resins. Autonomous color pattern development, pattern characterization and tunability, and applications to real-world systems will be discussed. The second section of this talk will center on the end of the material lifecycle. Cyclic poly(phthalaldehyde) (cPPA), an attractive transient material which rapidly depolymerizes upon activation, has been used to produce transient bulk materials. Topics will include advances in bulk processing of cPPA, mechanistic insights learned along the way, and the future of this stimulus-responsive polymer.

Thursday, April 18
PFAS remediation at MSU‐Fraunhofer: Electrochemical destruction in wastewater and landfill leachates using boron‐doped diamond electrodes
Speaker: Cory A. Rusinek – Scientist,  Michigan State University‐Fraunhofer USA, Inc. Center for Coatings and Diamond Technologies
Register for the free webinar

Abstract: Boron‐doped diamond (BDD) electrodes have shown promise over the last decade for contaminant degradation with a number of studies showing its ability to degrade PFASs. The BDD material provides a combination of rigidity, high oxygen over‐potential, and overall electrode lifetime, which makes it an attractive option for an electrochemical treatment system. This presentation will cover the basic and applied research findings of using electrochemical oxidation (EO) with BDD electrodes to destroy PFAS in wastewater and other complex samples such as landfill leachates and wastewaters. Various complimentary treatment technologies for PFAS remediation will also be addressed.

 

2019 Emerging Contaminants in the Environment Conference announces keynote speakers

Keynote speakers for the 2019 Emerging Contaminants in the Environment conference have been announced. The conference will be held on May 21-22, 2019, at the Hilton Garden Inn in Champaign, IL. This year the conference will expand beyond the aquatic environment to also include air and soil studies along with effects on human and animal health. Conference organizers are accepting poster presentations through February 4.

The keynote speakers are:

Getting Ahead of Emerging Contaminants with the Class Concept

Thomas Burton – PFAS Research and Policy Lead, Green Science Policy Institute

Thomas Bruton received his Ph.D. in environmental engineering at UC Berkeley, where his research focused on using in-situ chemical oxidation for remediation of chemical contaminants, including PFAS, in soil and groundwater. In 2017, Tom joined the Green Science Policy Institute, which works collaboratively with partners in academia, government, business, and the nonprofit sector to reduce the use of harmful chemicals in products.  Tom currently leads the Institute’s research and policy work on PFAS.  He is the author of several peer-reviewed papers on PFAS, and is frequently interviewed by the news media.

Microplastics: A Global, Multi-Media Concern

Robert C. Hale – Professor of Marine Science, Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Rob Hale’s research focuses on the sources, multi-media fate, bioavailability and effects of persistent, bioaccumulative & toxic (PBT) pollutants.  Recent interests include flame retardants and microplastics. Matrices of concern have ranged from local fish tissues and sediments, Antarctic wastewater sludge, plastics, to indoor & World Trade Center dust. Over the last 30 years he has published >100 journals articles, which have been cited >7000 times.

Rob was born in Detroit, MI.  He received bachelor degrees in both chemistry and biology (Wayne State University), as well as a Ph.D. in Marine Science (William & Mary). He initially worked as a Research Environmental Chemist for Mobil Corp. in Princeton, NJ, before returning to VIMS, where he is now a Professor in the Dept. of Aquatic Health Sciences.

Emerging Contaminants: State of the Art and New Discoveries

Susan D. Richardson – Arthur Sease Williams Professor of Chemistry, University of South Carolina

Biography:  Susan D. Richardson is the Arthur Sease Williams Professor of Chemistry in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of South Carolina.  Prior to coming to USC in January 2014, she was a Research Chemist for several years at the U.S. EPA’s National Exposure Research Laboratory in Athens, GA.  Susan is the recipient of the 2008 American Chemical Society Award for Creative Advancements in Environmental Science & Technology, has received an honorary doctorate from Cape Breton University in Canada (2006), and was recently recognized as an ACS Fellow (2016).  Susan was also recently elected as the Vice President/President Elect for the American Society for Mass Spectrometry.

 

Agricultural Chemicals in the Environment: A Study on Nitrapyrin

For a number of farms in the Midwest, nitrapyrin is used to help hold nutrients in agricultural fields until the plants have a chance to use them. Nitrapyrin increases the availability of nitrogen fertilizer, which boosts crop production. Therefore, nitrapyrin can improve nitrogen use efficiency, reduce nutrient losses, and thereby mitigate eutrophication (excess nutrients spurring exponential growth of algae in lakes).

Nitrapyrin and other nitrogen inhibitors work by limiting the conversion of ammonium to nitrite (first step of nitrification). Nitrapyrin also restricts the formation of nitrate from nitrite (second step of nitrification).  Nitrate is one of the major contributors to eutrophication.

While the use of nitrapyrin has benefits, concerns have been raised about whether its runoff from fields into nearby rivers and streams could have an impact on bacteria and the nitrification process in those water bodies. Even though nitrapyrin has been used as nitrification inhibitor and soil bactericide since the early 1970s, there is limited information on its fate and transport from fields into aquatic ecosystems.

As an initial step to quantify the amounts of nitrapyrin present in fields and streams, ISTC researchers Wei Zheng and Nancy Holm collaborated with scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to undertake a one-year study of its occurrence in seven streams and nearby farm fields in Iowa and Illinois. The team examined the concentrations of nitrapyrin, its metabolities, and three widely used herbicides – acetochlor, atrazine, and metolachlor – in soil and water samples.

Results from their recently published article showed that nitrapyrin was found in many of the samples. It was sorbed to soil particles, transported from fields via overland flow, and leached into subsurface drains. In addition, all three herbicides were found in the stream samples with atrazine being the most concentrated of the three, especially at peak application times.

This research project extends the previously published pilot study on nitrapyrin by the USGS and is the first to show the transport of nitrapyrin from fields to streams over an entire year. In addition, this study is the first to describe nitrapyrin transport via subsurface drains, although those concentrations were much lower than surface concentrations. Studies such as this can help provide decision makers with a better understanding of the fate of chemicals applied to agroecosystems.

Illinois Researchers Take Novel Approach to Removing PPCPs from Water

When you dump expired cold syrup or rinse out an almost empty bottle of lotion into the sink, do you ever consider what chemicals are being introduced into the water supply?

The increase of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) entering public water systems was a problem that researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign challenged themselves to solve thanks to seed funding from the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE).

“PPCPs pose dangerous ecological and health effects on chronic exposure even if they are present in low concentrations,” said Dipanjan Pan, Associate Professor and the Director of Professional MS Program in Bioengineering. “We believe we have found a low-cost way to remove these harmful chemicals — and by making it biodegradable, we won’t be introducing any complications to wildlife.”

A team led by Pan collaborated with Wei Zheng, Senior Research Scientist at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC, a Division of the Prairie Research Institute), and B.K. Sharma, Senior Research Engineer at ISTC, to develop a unique technology to alter the harmful chemicals introduced to water. The results of their study were recently published in Journal of Materials Chemistry A.

Team members from Pan Laboratory created a “smart filter,” called a Pharmaceutical Nano-CarboScavenger (PNC), that efficiently and safely removes carbamazepine (found in medications treating a wide-range of physical and mental health issues), gemfibrozil (found in cholesterol medication), and triclocarban (an antibacterial agent found in soaps and lotions) from water. 

This filter is vastly different from your average water filter. It places activated charcoal and sand on top of the PNCs, which are carbon-filled cores made from agave. Water is allowed in, the activated charcoal removes heavy metals, the sand helps remove impurities and contaminants, and the PNCs scavenge through the water to remove the PPCP pollutants.

“A nanoengineered system that is based on an environmentally degradable system is a major and unmet need,” Zheng said. “The materials are derived from inexpensive natural sources and completely biodegradable, making this approach highly adaptable and environmentally friendly for mass processes.”

Other collaborators on the project: Indu Tripathi, former Postdoctoral Visiting Scholar in Bioengineering; Laurel K. Dodgen, former Illinois Postdoc and current Physical Scientist for the U.S. Department of the Interior; Fatemeh Ostadhossein, M.S. and Ph.D. Candidate in Bioengineering; Santosh Misra, former iSEE Postdoctoral Researcher in Bioengineering; and Enrique Daza, a recent Bioengineering Ph.D. graduate and an M.B.A. Candidate from Pan’s lab.

Backed by iSEE funding, Pan’s Nano-CarboScavenger team also has explored remediating crude oil spills in water and had successes in the lab at clumping oil globules that could be scooped by a fine net — again, with the particles completely biodegradable and having no effect on wildlife if consumed. Pan and his team have also explored possible cancer treatments using nanoparticles.

Call for Abstracts for the 2019 Emerging Contaminants in the Environment Conference now open

You can now submit abstracts for the 2019 Emerging Contaminants in the Environment Conference.

Abstracts are requested for oral and poster presentations on all aspects of emerging contaminants in the environment, including research, public health, policy, management, outreach, and education. The conference will include sessions on:

  • Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) (including PFOS, PFOA, & related compounds)
  • Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) (including naturally occurring hormones)
  • Plastics and microplastics (including microfibers)
  • Other emerging contaminants

Visit the conference web site to submit your abstract or use the links below:

Registration will open in February 2019. Registration includes conference admission and detailed conference program. In addition, it includes breakfast and lunch on the day(s) that you register, hors d’oeurves at the poster session (May 21), and a networking mixer at 5-7 pm on May 20 at the Pavilion Lounge in the Hilton Garden Inn.

 

New Legislative Request Regarding Contaminants of Emerging Concern in Illinois Wastewater Effluent

The Illinois governor recently signed House Bill IL-HB5741 that amends the University of Illinois Scientific Surveys Act. The new section 21 asks the Prairie Research Institute (PRI), which was established under the Scientific Surveys Act in 2008, to conduct a scientific literature review of chemicals identified in wastewater treatment plant effluents that are recognized as contaminants of emerging concern. It also requests that PRI compile a listing of the specific actions recommended by various state and federal agencies to address the environmental or public health concerns associated with the chemicals. PRI will provide its impartial report to the General Assembly by June 30, 2020.

Because of its long history of pollution prevention expertise, the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), a division of the Prairie Research Institute, will take the lead on this new effort. ISTC researchers have studied a variety of inorganic and organic environmental contaminants as well as developed methods for waste and pollution prevention. Recently much of their water quality research and public engagement activities have focused on chemicals of emerging concern in wastewater, surface water, and groundwater. ISTC staff members Nancy Holm, Laura Barnes, and Elizabeth Meschewski will be compiling the report.

Although the law requests a literature review of contaminants of emerging concern associated with wastewater treatment plant effluent, these contaminants also enter the environment from other sources. These include non-point sources, such as agricultural fields, and other point sources, such as large animal feeding operations, septic systems, and industrial operations.