Archived Announcements

August 15 2016

Virtual Special Issue of STOTEN Highlights Three Articles by Columbia SRP Scientists and Government Partners on Arsenic in Private Well Water

Columbia SRP scientists and their government partners in New Jersey and Maine published three articles in the August 15, 2016 issue of Science of the Total Environment, which have been selected by the editor for a Virtual Special Issue on Drinking Water Contaminants. The first of the three papers “Arsenic in private well water part 1 of 3: Impact of the New Jersey Private Well Testing Act on household testing and mitigation behavior” is authored by CU SRP scientists Sara Flanagan (CEC/RTC), Yan Zheng (CEC/RTC), Steven Chillrud (RTC/Project 5), and Stuart Braman (RTC/CEC), in collaboration with Steven Spayd and Nicholas Procopio of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP). This paper reports their investigation of the influence of a policy intervention, the New Jersey Private Well Testing Act (PWTA), on private well testing and water treatment behavior for arsenic. Since 2002, New Jersey’s PWTA has required testing of untreated groundwater for a variety of parameters prior to home sales and rentals, including arsenic testing in 12 counties in northern and central New Jersey. New Jersey is one of only two states that require testing of private wells for arsenic at the time of real estate transactions. The article presents the findings from a mailed survey of private well households in 17 towns in northern New Jersey, where about 25% of wells have faced the PWTA’s requirement for arsenic testing. Survey respondents answered questions on their water testing and treatment practices, preferences, and opinions. The authors conclude that New Jersey’s PWTA has led to significantly higher arsenic testing rates in at-risk areas and the identification of many more contaminated wells. Furthermore, the requirement to test among new homeowners addresses the socioeconomic gaps in testing that otherwise arise and has the unintended benefit of reaching higher proportions of families with children. The authors recommend more public resources be made available to support private well testing among socially and biologically vulnerable groups as well as more support for households after testing to promote arsenic exposure reduction through consistent water avoidance or treatment, regular maintenance, and monitoring.

In the second article “Arsenic in private well water part 2 of 3: Who benefits the most from traditional testing promotion?” authors Flanagan, Spayd, Procopio, Chillrud, James Ross (RTC/Core C), Braman, and Zheng report that, based on their survey of private well households in New Jersey, residents of towns with a history of arsenic testing promotion have tested their wells at higher rates than residents of areas where there has been no arsenic testing promotion. They conclude, however, that arsenic testing promotion at the community level may contribute to socioeconomic status (SES) disparities in arsenic testing since those with higher incomes and more education are more likely to take advantage of testing programs. The authors recommend that arsenic testing promotion and community engagement be better targeted to more socially vulnerable populations and suggest that policy changes at state and local levels may be needed to overcome the SES disparities observed when testing is not required.

In the third article of the series, “Arsenic in private well water part 3 of 3: Socioeconomic vulnerability to exposure in Maine and New Jersey,” Columbia SRP scientists Flanagan, Chillrud, Braman, and Zheng in collaboration with Spayd (NJDEP), Procopio (NJDEP), Robert Marvinney (Maine Geological Survey), and Andrew Smith (Maine Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Disease Control and Prevention) analyze data obtained from private well household surveys carried out in central Maine and northern New Jersey to investigate the association between SES and arsenic exposure risk, considering residential location, testing and treatment behavior, and psychological factors influencing behavior. The investigators find that while the environmental distribution of arsenic exposure risk is socioeconomically random, SES disparities in exposure likely arise from differing rates of protective behaviors such as testing well water for arsenic, water treatment, and avoiding contaminated water. They recommend that social vulnerability factors be incorporated into arsenic risk modeling and identifying priority areas for intervention.

Citations:

Flanagan SV, Spayd SE, Procopio NA, Chillrud SN, Braman S, Zheng Y. Arsenic in private well water part 1 of 3: Impact of the New Jersey Private Well Testing Act on household testing and mitigation behavior. Science of the Total Environment. 2016 August 15; 562:999–1009. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.03.196

Flanagan SV, Spayd SE, Procopio NA, Chillrud SN, Ross J, Braman S, Zheng Y. Arsenic in private well water part 2 of 3: Who benefits the most from traditional testing promotion? Science of the Total Environment. 2016 August 15; 562:1010–1018. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.03.199

Flanagan SV, Spayd SE, Procopio NA, Marvinney RG, Smith AE, Chillrud SN, Braman S, Zheng Y. Arsenic in private well water part 3 of 3: Socioeconomic vulnerability to exposure in Maine and New Jersey. Science of the Total Environment. 2016 August 15; 562:1019–1030. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.03.217

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Announcement type: CU SRP Publications

August 15 2016

Sara Flanagan wins 2016 K.C. Donnelly Externship Award

Sara Flanagan

Congratulations to Sara Flanagan on winning a 2016 K.C. Donnelly Externship Award! Flanagan is a doctoral student at the City University of New York and a research associate of the Columbia University Superfund Research Program (SRP) Community Engagement Core (CEC) under CEC PI Dr. Yan Zheng. The K.C. Donnelly Externship Award was established by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) SRP in memory of longtime SRP grantee Dr. K.C. Donnelly. It provides current SRP-funded graduate students and postdoctoral researchers with translational/transdisciplinary opportunities and experiences within other SRP-funded centers, government laboratories (EPA, ATSDR, NIEHS), or other agencies (state, local, Tribal). For her externship, Flanagan will work with Steve Spayd, Ph.D., at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and other researchers at the NJ Department of Health (NJDOH). Her current research is aimed at investigating motivators and barriers for water testing and treating arsenic-affected private wells used for drinking water. Through this externship, Flanagan will collaborate with NJDEP and NJDOH on community engagement and intervention strategies to increase private well arsenic testing and motivate well owners to reduce their risk of exposure.

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Announcement type: CU SRP Announcements

June 22 2016

Importance of Young Dissolved Organic Carbon to the Release of Arsenic in Arsenic Impacted Aquifers

On June 22, 2016, the journal Environmental Science & Technology published a paper by Columbia SRP scientists Brian Mailloux, Alexander van Geen, Benjamin Bostick and colleagues Kelly Whaley-Martin, Greg Slater, Rachel Silvern, Carol Kim, Kazi Matin Ahmed, and Imtiaz Choudhury titled, “Stimulation of Microbially Mediated Arsenic Release in Bangladesh Aquifers by Young Carbon Indicated by Radiocarbon Analysis of Sedimentary Bacterial Lipids.” Arsenic contamination affects the drinking water of millions of people around the world. In the majority of these environments, arsenic is released from sediments to the water through biological respiration that changes the chemical form of the closely associated arsenic and iron. This respiration requires organic carbon, yet the sources of this organic carbon driving the microbially-mediated release of arsenic to shallow groundwater, remain poorly understood. The study reported in this publication sheds light on this question using a novel method of characterizing the radiocarbon age of phospholipid fatty acids (PLFAs), molecules that are part of cellular wall material in all living organisms and are indicative of living organisms. This method established that the microbial respiration in aquifers containing arsenic uses carbon that is much younger than the carbon in the sediments, and similar in age to dissolved organic carbon, much of which is derived from near-surface environments. This observation implies that these young carbon substrates are used in the microbial reduction of sedimentary iron oxides that are known to release arsenic into solution. The methods used in this study are particularly powerful because they allow scientists to study these microbiological processes in complex field environments, establishing which carbon is being used for respiration, and to gain insight into how those processes effect aquifer water quality. The research findings suggest that near-surface sources of organic carbon are central in microbial metabolism even in aquifers that are spatially separated from the land surface from which this carbon is derived. This indicates that dissolved organic carbon is efficiently and rapidly transported into the aquifer. Since this dissolved organic carbon is transported in water, there must be a hydrological connection between shallow sources and the aquifer, and water must be efficiently transported from shallow sources to depth. Given that one of the sites examined in this study is covered by a thick clay that is laterally extensive, it appears that groundwater can circumvent this barrier, and that these barriers may not be as protective of water quality as previously believed. This field study establishes that young organic carbon derived from the surface can negatively affect arsenic concentrations and water quality within an aquifer. In the United States half of all Superfund sites are contaminated with arsenic. In these Superfund sites, similar changes in groundwater hydrology and/or the input of other organic wastes (for example, in landfills) or organic chemicals at industrial sites, also has the potential to adversely impact groundwater arsenic levels and overall water quality. These radiocarbon methods can also be applied to these other areas to understand the origin of arsenic contamination and how to target and optimize remediation efforts at these contaminated sites.

Citation: 

Whaley-Martin KJ, Mailloux BJ, van Geen A, Bostick BC, Silvern RF, Kim C, Ahmed KM, Choudhury I, Slater GF. Stimulation of Microbially Mediated Arsenic Release in Bangladesh Aquifers by Young Carbon Indicated by Radiocarbon Analysis of Sedimentary Bacterial Lipids. Environmental Science & Technology. 2016 Jun 22; 50:7353–7363. http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.6b00868

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Announcement type: CU SRP Publications

March 31 2016

How would arsenic behave in sulfidic environment?

Contributing to the development of solutions to the difficult problem of remediating aquifers with elevated dissolved arsenic concentrations, Columbia SRP postdoctoral researcher Jing Sun in collaboration with Andrew Quicksall of Southern Methodist University and Columbia SRP scientists from Projects 4 and 5 Steven Chillrud, Brian Mailloux, and Benjamin Bostick have published an article in the June 2016 issue of Chemosphere titled “Arsenic mobilization from sediments in microcosms under sulfate reduction.” The team is focused on designing and evaluating enhanced remediation approaches for sites with arsenic contaminated groundwater. Arsenic sulfide precipitation has often been suggested as a remediation option for such sites. In this paper, they reported results from laboratory studies where they stimulated microbial sulfate reduction within microcosms containing contaminated sediments, and evaluated whether this process would immobilize arsenic for use in groundwater remediation. The sediments used were collected from two distinct sites: the Vineland Chemical Company Superfund site in southern New Jersey and a former heavy metal sulfide mining site, the Coeur d’Alene mining district in northern Idaho. The research team found that although transient arsenic removal from solution occurred in microcosms with these sediments, overall arsenic was released from sediments to solution. Based on this study and other published studies on sulfate reduction, the research team has proposed a generalized conceptual model that describes how iron and sulfur are cycled in a sulfidic environment, which includes both insoluble sulfide minerals and soluble sulfide complexes, to better ascertain conditions under which sulfide phases immobilize arsenic. The article was initially published online on March 31, 2016.

Citation:

Sun J, Quicksall AN, Chillrud SN, Mailloux BJ, Bostick BC. Arsenic mobilization from sediments in microcosms under sulfate reduction. Chemosphere 2016 June; 153:254–261.

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Announcement type: CU SRP Publications

February 27 2016

Oxalic acid is a promising amendment for enhanced pump-and-treat to remediate groundwater arsenic contamination

Columbia SRP postdoctoral researcher Jing Sun along with Columbia SRP scientists from Projects 4 and 5 Benjamin Bostick, Brian Mailloux, Jamie Ross, and Steven Chillrud have published an article reporting their research to address the challenging task of remediating aquifers with elevated dissolved arsenic concentrations. Traditional pump-and-treat approaches are used at many arsenic contaminated aquifer sites even though the mass transfer of arsenic off of sediments is slow. Our group has investigated whether in situ injections of oxalic acid can increase the mass transfer into the aqueous phase, which is removed by pumping, and thus decrease the time required for effective remediation. In this paper, the team focused on whether residual sediment arsenic after oxalic acid treatment can still be reductively mobilized. The sediments used were from the Dover Municipal Landfill (Dover, New Hampshire) and the Vineland Chemical Company (Cumberland County, New Jersey) Superfund sites, which had different arsenic input sources, levels, and redox conditions. Batch extraction, column, and microcosm experiments were performed on the sediments in the laboratory. The authors found that oxalic acid mobilized arsenic from both Dover and Vineland sediments, although at different efficiency rates. They also found that the residual arsenic in both Dover and Vineland sediments after oxalic acid treatment was less vulnerable to microbial reduction than before the treatment but that there was still sufficient labile arsenic in the treated Vineland sediments to make them vulnerable under reducing conditions. Thus, they conclude that oxalic acid could potentially improve the efficiency of the widely used pump-and-treat remediation. The study “Effect of oxalic acid treatment on sediment arsenic concentrations and lability under reducing conditions” is reported in the July 2016 issue of the Journal of Hazardous Materials. The article was initially published online on February 27, 2016.

Citation:

Sun J, Bostick BC, Mailloux BJ, Ross JM, Chillrud SN. Effect of oxalic acid treatment on sediment arsenic concentrations and lability under reducing conditions. Journal of Hazardous Materials 2016 July; 311:125–133.

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Announcement type: CU SRP Publications

January 15 2016

RTC PI Meredith Golden Retires after Long Career in Environmental Health

Meredith Golden demonstrates the National Priorities List (NPL) Superfund Footprint Mapper at the 2012 Lamont-Doherty Open House in Palisades, NY.

After more than 35 years working in the field of environmental health, Meredith Golden, senior research associate at the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN), has retired. Golden joined the Consortium for International Earth Science Information Network in Saginaw, Michigan, 22 years ago, with a background in economics, medical geography, and epidemiology. She relocated to Columbia when CIESIN became an Earth Institute Center in 1998. She has served as a principal investigator of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Columbia Superfund Research Program, leading the interdisciplinary Research Translation Core (RTC) and coordinating development of the National Priorities List Superfund Footprint Mapper, a decision-making tool for researchers, regulators, and community partners. Golden also led the environment and health mission area of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center and contributed to other CIESIN and Earth Institute activities on health and hazards. Going forward, Golden plans to continue to use her public health expertise in assisting communities in environmental education and hazard mitigation.

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Announcement type: CU SRP Announcements

December 11 2015

Superfund 35th Anniversary

December 11, 2015 marks the 35th anniversary of the enactment of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA or Superfund).

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Announcement type: General Announcements

November 18 2015

2015 Superfund Research Program Annual Meeting

Northeastern University’s Puerto Rico Testsite for Exploring Contamination Threats (PROTECT) Superfund Research program will be hosting  the 2015 Annual Meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico from Wednesday, November 18 through Friday, November 20th. The theme for this meeting is "SRP Collaboration for Innovation"

Puerto Rico is the main study site for the Northeastern SRP PROTECT program. It is a U.S. territory with a Latino population facing significant environmental challenges, including the presence of 16 active Superfund sites and a number of major public health issues. Puerto Rico’s preterm birth rate has risen dramatically in recent years, and has recently seen elevated rates of autism, asthma, childhood and adult obesity, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes. Many of these challenges overlap with those being addressed by other SRP grantees across the U.S. The 2015 Annual SRP Meeting will emphasize the need for SRP scientists to collaborate with each other and government partners to apply their research findings and technologies to help reduce these and other environmental public health concerns.

For more information please see:  http://www.northeastern.edu/srp2015/

Announcement type: General Announcements

October 23 2015

A Potential Long-Term Arsenic Immobilization Strategy by Nitrate-Iron(II) Addition

Columbia SRP student Jing Sun, Columbia SRP scientists Steven Chillrud, Brian Mailloux, Martin Stute, and Benjamin Bostick, along with colleagues Rajesh Singh, Hailiang Dong, and Christopher Lepre have co-authored a publication in the journal Chemosphere entitled, "Enhanced and stabilized arsenic retention in microcosms through the microbial oxidation of ferrous iron by nitrate." The article reports the results of laboratory microcosm experiments conducted to investigate a potential As remediation method involving magnetite formation, using groundwater and sediments from the Vineland Chemical Company Superfund site in Cumberland County, New Jersey. The authors found that magnetite is an advantageous host-mineral for As immobilization. The study represents an initial attempt to produce relatively stable As sequesters by simultaneous addition of ferrous Fe and nitrate. The paper was published online on October 23, 2015. The print version will be available in the February 2016 issue of Chemosphere. Benjamin Bostick is the corresponding author.

Citation: Sun J, Chillrud SN, Mailloux BJ, Stute M, Singh R, Dong H, Lepre CJ, Bostick BC. Enhanced and stabilized arsenic retention in microcosms through the microbial oxidation of ferrous iron by nitrate. Chemosphere 2016 Feb; 144:1106–1115. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chemosphere.2015.09.045

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Announcement type: CU SRP Publications

June 26 2015

Diverse Stakeholders Partner to Reduce Arsenic Exposure and Health Effects

Following the Human and Environmental Sustainability Summit on Environmental and Human Health Consequences of Arsenic in August 2014, participants from both public and private sectors, including CU SRP RTC scientist Meredith Golden, collaborated to co-author, “MDI Biological Laboratory Arsenic Summit: Approaches to Limiting Human Exposure to Arsenic”. This paper summarizes the summit findings and proposes a plan for reducing arsenic exposure globally through innovative policies and effective actions. The lead author and the Summit convener, Dr. Bruce Stanton is the Director of the Dartmouth Superfund Research Program. The paper was published online on June 26, 2015 by Current Environmental Health Reports (dx.doi.org/10.1007/s40572-015-0057-9). The print version will be available in the September issue.

Citation:

Stanton, B.A., et al. MDI Biological Laboratory Arsenic Summit: Approaches to Limiting Human Exposure to Arsenic. Current Environmental Health Reports, September 2015, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp 329-337. Available online 26 June 2015. DOI 10.1007/s40572-015-0057-9.

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Announcement type: CU SRP Publications

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