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Novel biopolymer treatment for wind induced soil erosion

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It is estimated that wind induced soil transports more than 500 x 106 metric tons of fugitive dust annually. Soil erosion has negative effects on human health, the productivity of farms, and the quality of surface waters. A variety of

It is estimated that wind induced soil transports more than 500 x 106 metric tons of fugitive dust annually. Soil erosion has negative effects on human health, the productivity of farms, and the quality of surface waters. A variety of different polymer stabilizers are available on the market for fugitive dust control. Most of these polymer stabilizers are expensive synthetic polymer products. Their adverse effects and expense usually limits their use. Biopolymers provide a potential alternative to synthetic polymers. They can provide dust abatement by encapsulating soil particles and creating a binding network throughout the treated area. This research into the effectiveness of biopolymers for fugitive dust control involved three phases. Phase I included proof of concept tests. Phase II included carrying out the tests in a wind tunnel. Phase III consisted of conducting the experiments in the field. Proof of concept tests showed that biopolymers have the potential to reduce soil erosion and fugitive dust transport. Wind tunnel tests on two candidate biopolymers, xanthan and chitosan, showed that there is a proportional relationship between biopolymer application rates and threshold wind velocities. The wind tunnel tests also showed that xanthan gum is more successful in the field than chitosan. The field tests showed that xanthan gum was effective at controlling soil erosion. However, the chitosan field data was inconsistent with the xanthan data and field data on bare soil.

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2011

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Fabrication and evaluation of hematite modified granular activated carbon (GAC) media for arsenic removal from groundwater

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The goal of the study was twofold: (i) to investigate the synthesis of hematite-impregnated granular activated carbon (Fe-GAC) by hydrolysis of Fe (III) and (ii) to assess the effectiveness of the fabricated media in removal of arsenic from water. Fe-GAC

The goal of the study was twofold: (i) to investigate the synthesis of hematite-impregnated granular activated carbon (Fe-GAC) by hydrolysis of Fe (III) and (ii) to assess the effectiveness of the fabricated media in removal of arsenic from water. Fe-GAC was synthesized by hydrolysis of Fe(III) salts under two Fe (III) initial dosages (0.5M and 2M) and two hydrolysis periods (24 hrs and 72 hrs). The iron content of the fabricated Fe-GAC media ranged from 0.9% to 4.4% Fe/g of the dry media. Pseudo-equilibrium batch test data at pH = 7.7±0.2 in 1mM NaHCO3 buffered ultrapure water and challenge groundwater representative of the Arizona Mexico border region were fitted to a Freundlich isotherm model. The findings suggested that the arsenic adsorption capacity of the metal (hydr)oxide modified GAC media is primarily controlled by the surface area of the media, while the metal content exhibited lesser effect. The adsorption capacity of the media in the model Mexican groundwater matrix was significantly lower for all adsorbent media. Continuous flow short bed adsorber tests (SBA) demonstrated that the adsorption capacity for arsenic in the challenge groundwater was reduced by a factor of 3 to 4 as a result of the mass transport effects. When compared on metal basis, the iron (hydr)oxide modified media performed comparably well as existing commercial media for treatment of arsenic. On dry mass basis, the fabricated media in this study removed less arsenic than their commercial counterparts because the metal content of the commercial media was significantly higher.

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2011

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Contaminants of emerging concern in U.S. sewage sludges and forecasting of associated ecological and human health risks using sewage epidemiology approaches

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Many manmade chemicals used in consumer products are ultimately washed down the drain and are collected in municipal sewers. Efficient chemical monitoring at wastewater treatment (WWT) plants thus may provide up-to-date information on chemical usage rates for epidemiological assessments. The

Many manmade chemicals used in consumer products are ultimately washed down the drain and are collected in municipal sewers. Efficient chemical monitoring at wastewater treatment (WWT) plants thus may provide up-to-date information on chemical usage rates for epidemiological assessments. The objective of the present study was to extrapolate this concept, termed 'sewage epidemiology', to include municipal sewage sludge (MSS) in identifying and prioritizing contaminants of emerging concern (CECs). To test this the following specific aims were defined: i) to screen and identify CECs in nationally representative samples of MSS and to provide nationwide inventories of CECs in U.S. MSS; ii) to investigate the fate and persistence in MSS-amended soils, of sludge-borne hydrophobic CECs; and iii) to develop an analytical tool relying on contaminant levels in MSS as an indicator for identifying and prioritizing hydrophobic CECs. Chemicals that are primarily discharged to the sewage systems (alkylphenol surfactants) and widespread persistent organohalogen pollutants (perfluorochemicals and brominated flame retardants) were analyzed in nationally representative MSS samples. A meta-analysis showed that CECs contribute about 0.04-0.15% to the total dry mass of MSS, a mass equivalent of 2,700-7,900 metric tonnes of chemicals annually. An analysis of archived mesocoms from a sludge weathering study showed that 64 CECs persisted in MSS/soil mixtures over the course of the experiment, with half-lives ranging between 224 and >990 days; these results suggest an inherent persistence of CECs that accumulate in MSS. A comparison of the spectrum of chemicals (n=52) analyzed in nationally representative biological specimens from humans and MSS revealed 70% overlap. This observed co-occurrence of contaminants in both matrices suggests that MSS may serve as an indicator for ongoing human exposures and body burdens of pollutants in humans. In conclusion, I posit that this novel approach in sewage epidemiology may serve to pre-screen and prioritize the several thousands of known or suspected CECs to identify those that are most prone to pose a risk to human health and the environment.

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2013

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Single cell RT-qPCR based ocean environmental sensing device development

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This thesis research focuses on developing a single-cell gene expression analysis method for marine diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana and constructing a chip level tool to realize the single cell RT-qPCR analysis. This chip will serve as a conceptual foundation for future

This thesis research focuses on developing a single-cell gene expression analysis method for marine diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana and constructing a chip level tool to realize the single cell RT-qPCR analysis. This chip will serve as a conceptual foundation for future deployable ocean monitoring systems. T. pseudonana, which is a common surface water microorganism, was detected in the deep ocean as confirmed by phylogenetic and microbial community functional studies. Six-fold copy number differences between 23S rRNA and 23S rDNA were observed by RT-qPCR, demonstrating the moderate functional activity of detected photosynthetic microbes in the deep ocean including T. pseudonana. Because of the ubiquity of T. pseudonana, it is a good candidate for an early warning system for ocean environmental perturbation monitoring. This early warning system will depend on identifying outlier gene expression at the single-cell level. An early warning system based on single-cell analysis is expected to detect environmental perturbations earlier than population level analysis which can only be observed after a whole community has reacted. Preliminary work using tube-based, two-step RT-qPCR revealed for the first time, gene expression heterogeneity of T. pseudonana under different nutrient conditions. Heterogeneity was revealed by different gene expression activity for individual cells under the same conditions. This single cell analysis showed a skewed, lognormal distribution and helped to find outlier cells. The results indicate that the geometric average becomes more important and representative of the whole population than the arithmetic average. This is in contrast with population level analysis which is limited to arithmetic averages only and highlights the value of single cell analysis. In order to develop a deployable sensor in the ocean, a chip level device was constructed. The chip contains surface-adhering droplets, defined by hydrophilic patterning, that serve as real-time PCR reaction chambers when they are immersed in oil. The chip had demonstrated sensitivities at the single cell level for both DNA and RNA. The successful rate of these chip-based reactions was around 85%. The sensitivity of the chip was equivalent to published microfluidic devices with complicated designs and protocols, but the production process of the chip was simple and the materials were all easily accessible in conventional environmental and/or biology laboratories. On-chip tests provided heterogeneity information about the whole population and were validated by comparing with conventional tube based methods and by p-values analysis. The power of chip-based single-cell analyses were mainly between 65-90% which were acceptable and can be further increased by higher throughput devices. With this chip and single-cell analysis approaches, a new paradigm for robust early warning systems of ocean environmental perturbation is possible.

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2013

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Photovoltaic capacity additions: the optimal rate of deployment with sensitivity to time-based GHG emissions

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Current policies subsidizing or accelerating deployment of photovoltaics (PV) are typically motivated by claims of environmental benefit, such as the reduction of CO2 emissions generated by the fossil-fuel fired power plants that PV is intended to displace. Existing practice is

Current policies subsidizing or accelerating deployment of photovoltaics (PV) are typically motivated by claims of environmental benefit, such as the reduction of CO2 emissions generated by the fossil-fuel fired power plants that PV is intended to displace. Existing practice is to assess these environmental benefits on a net life-cycle basis, where CO2 benefits occurring during use of the PV panels is found to exceed emissions generated during the PV manufacturing phase including materials extraction and manufacture of the PV panels prior to installation. However, this approach neglects to recognize that the environmental costs of CO2 release during manufacture are incurred early, while environmental benefits accrue later. Thus, where specific policy targets suggest meeting CO2 reduction targets established by a certain date, rapid PV deployment may have counter-intuitive, albeit temporary, undesired consequences. Thus, on a cumulative radiative forcing (CRF) basis, the environmental improvements attributable to PV might be realized much later than is currently understood. This phenomenon is particularly acute when PV manufacture occurs in areas using CO2 intensive energy sources (e.g., coal), but deployment occurs in areas with less CO2 intensive electricity sources (e.g., hydro). This thesis builds a dynamic Cumulative Radiative Forcing (CRF) model to examine the inter-temporal warming impacts of PV deployments in three locations: California, Wyoming and Arizona. The model includes the following factors that impact CRF: PV deployment rate, choice of PV technology, pace of PV technology improvements, and CO2 intensity in the electricity mix at manufacturing and deployment locations. Wyoming and California show the highest and lowest CRF benefits as they have the most and least CO2 intensive grids, respectively. CRF payback times are longer than CO2 payback times in all cases. Thin film, CdTe PV technologies have the lowest manufacturing CO2 emissions and therefore the shortest CRF payback times. This model can inform policies intended to fulfill time-sensitive CO2 mitigation goals while minimizing short term radiative forcing.

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2013

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Impact of copper nanoparticles on inactivation and toxicity pathway on model bacteria

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Nanotechnology is a scientific field that has recently expanded due to its applications in pharmaceutical and personal care products, industry and agriculture. As result of this unprecedented growth, nanoparticles (NPs) have become a significant environmental contaminant, with potential to impact

Nanotechnology is a scientific field that has recently expanded due to its applications in pharmaceutical and personal care products, industry and agriculture. As result of this unprecedented growth, nanoparticles (NPs) have become a significant environmental contaminant, with potential to impact various forms of life in environment. Metal nanoparticles (mNPs) exhibit unique properties such as increased chemical reactivity due to high specific surface area to volume ratios. Bacteria play a major role in many natural and engineered biogeochemical reactions in wastewater treatment plants and other environmental compartments. I have evaluated the laboratory isolates of E. coli, Bacillus, Alcaligenes, Pseudomonas; wastewater isolates of E. coli and Bacillus; and pathogenic isolate of E. coli for their response to 50 & 100 nm sized Cu nanoparticles (CuNPs). Bactericidal tests, scanning electron microscopy (SEM) analyses, and probable toxicity pathways assays were performed. The results indicate that under continuous mixing conditions, CuNPs are effective in inactivation of the selected bacterial isolates. In general, exposure to CuNPs resulted in 4 to >6 log reduction in bacterial population within 2 hours. Based on the GR, LDH and MTT assays, bacterial cells showed different toxicity elicitation pathways after exposure to CuNPs. Therefore, it can be concluded that the laboratory isolates are good candidates for predicting the behavior of environmental isolates exposed to CuNPs. Also, high inactivation values recorded in this study suggest that the presence of CuNPs in different environmental compartments may have an impact on pollutants attenuation and wastewater biological treatment processes. These results point towards the need for an in depth investigation of the impact of NPs on the biological processes; and long-term effect of high load of NPs on the stability of aquatic and terrestrial ecologies.

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2012

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Ecological interactions among nitrate-, perchlorate-, and sulfate-reducing bacteria in hydrogen-fed biofilm reactors

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Water contamination with nitrate (NO3−) (from fertilizers) and perchlorate (ClO4−) (from rocket fuel and explosives) is a widespread environmental problem. I employed the Membrane Biofilm Reactor (MBfR), a novel bioremediation technology, to treat NO3− and ClO4− in the presence of

Water contamination with nitrate (NO3−) (from fertilizers) and perchlorate (ClO4−) (from rocket fuel and explosives) is a widespread environmental problem. I employed the Membrane Biofilm Reactor (MBfR), a novel bioremediation technology, to treat NO3− and ClO4− in the presence of naturally occurring sulfate (SO42−). In the MBfR, bacteria reduce oxidized pollutants that act as electron acceptors, and they grow as a biofilm on the outer surface of gas-transfer membranes that deliver the electron donor (hydrogen gas, (H2). The overarching objective of my research was to achieve a comprehensive understanding of ecological interactions among key microbial members in the MBfR when treating polluted water with NO3− and ClO4− in the presence of SO42−. First, I characterized competition and co-existence between denitrifying bacteria (DB) and sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB) when the loading of either the electron donor or electron acceptor was varied. Then, I assessed the microbial community structure of biofilms mostly populated by DB and SRB, linking structure with function based on the electron-donor bioavailability and electron-acceptor loading. Next, I introduced ClO4− as a second oxidized contaminant and discovered that SRB harm the performance of perchlorate-reducing bacteria (PRB) when the aim is complete ClO4− destruction from a highly contaminated groundwater. SRB competed too successfully for H2 and space in the biofilm, forcing the PRB to unfavorable zones in the biofilm. To better control SRB, I tested a two-stage MBfR for total ClO4− removal from a groundwater highly contaminated with ClO4−. I document successful remediation of ClO4− after controlling SO4 2− reduction by restricting electron-donor availability and increasing the acceptor loading to the second stage reactor. Finally, I evaluated the performance of a two-stage pilot MBfR treating water polluted with NO3− and ClO4−, and I provided a holistic understanding of the microbial community structure and diversity. In summary, the microbial community structure in the MBfR contributes to and can be used to explain/predict successful or failed water bioremediation. Based on this understanding, I developed means to manage the microbial community to achieve desired water-decontamination results. This research shows the benefits of looking "inside the box" for "improving the box".

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2014

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Technical, economical and social aspects of moving treatability studies for in situ bioremediation of contaminated aquifers from the laboratory to the field

Description

This dissertation explores the use of bench-scale batch microcosms in remedial design of contaminated aquifers, presents an alternative methodology for conducting such treatability studies, and - from technical, economical, and social perspectives - examines real-world application of this new technology.

This dissertation explores the use of bench-scale batch microcosms in remedial design of contaminated aquifers, presents an alternative methodology for conducting such treatability studies, and - from technical, economical, and social perspectives - examines real-world application of this new technology. In situ bioremediation (ISB) is an effective remedial approach for many contaminated groundwater sites. However, site-specific variability necessitates the performance of small-scale treatability studies prior to full-scale implementation. The most common methodology is the batch microcosm, whose potential limitations and suitable technical alternatives are explored in this thesis. In a critical literature review, I discuss how continuous-flow conditions stimulate microbial attachment and biofilm formation, and identify unique microbiological phenomena largely absent in batch bottles, yet potentially relevant to contaminant fate. Following up on this theoretical evaluation, I experimentally produce pyrosequencing data and perform beta diversity analysis to demonstrate that batch and continuous-flow (column) microcosms foster distinctly different microbial communities. Next, I introduce the In Situ Microcosm Array (ISMA), which took approximately two years to design, develop, build and iteratively improve. The ISMA can be deployed down-hole in groundwater monitoring wells of contaminated aquifers for the purpose of autonomously conducting multiple parallel continuous-flow treatability experiments. The ISMA stores all sample generated in the course of each experiment, thereby preventing the release of chemicals into the environment. Detailed results are presented from an ISMA demonstration evaluating ISB for the treatment of hexavalent chromium and trichloroethene. In a technical and economical comparison to batch microcosms, I demonstrate the ISMA is both effective in informing remedial design decisions and cost-competitive. Finally, I report on a participatory technology assessment (pTA) workshop attended by diverse stakeholders of the Phoenix 52nd Street Superfund Site evaluating the ISMA's ability for addressing a real-world problem. In addition to receiving valuable feedback on perceived ISMA limitations, I conclude from the workshop that pTA can facilitate mutual learning even among entrenched stakeholders. In summary, my doctoral research (i) pinpointed limitations of current remedial design approaches, (ii) produced a novel alternative approach, and (iii) demonstrated the technical, economical and social value of this novel remedial design tool, i.e., the In Situ Microcosm Array technology.

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2013

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Environmentally responsible use of nanomaterials for the photocatalytic reduction of nitrate in water

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Nitrate is the most prevalent water pollutant limiting the use of groundwater as a potable water source. The overarching goal of this dissertation was to leverage advances in nanotechnology to improve nitrate photocatalysis and transition treatment to the full-scale. The

Nitrate is the most prevalent water pollutant limiting the use of groundwater as a potable water source. The overarching goal of this dissertation was to leverage advances in nanotechnology to improve nitrate photocatalysis and transition treatment to the full-scale. The research objectives were to (1) examine commercial and synthesized photocatalysts, (2) determine the effect of water quality parameters (e.g., pH), (3) conduct responsible engineering by ensuring detection methods were in place for novel materials, and (4) develop a conceptual framework for designing nitrate-specific photocatalysts. The key issues for implementing photocatalysis for nitrate drinking water treatment were efficient nitrate removal at neutral pH and by-product selectivity toward nitrogen gases, rather than by-products that pose a human health concern (e.g., nitrite). Photocatalytic nitrate reduction was found to follow a series of proton-coupled electron transfers. The nitrate reduction rate was limited by the electron-hole recombination rate, and the addition of an electron donor (e.g., formate) was necessary to reduce the recombination rate and achieve efficient nitrate removal. Nano-sized photocatalysts with high surface areas mitigated the negative effects of competing aqueous anions. The key water quality parameter impacting by-product selectivity was pH. For pH < 4, the by-product selectivity was mostly N-gas with some NH4+, but this shifted to NO2- above pH = 4, which suggests the need for proton localization to move beyond NO2-. Co-catalysts that form a Schottky barrier, allowing for localization of electrons, were best for nitrate reduction. Silver was optimal in heterogeneous systems because of its ability to improve nitrate reduction activity and N-gas by-product selectivity, and graphene was optimal in two-electrode systems because of its ability to shuttle electrons to the working electrode. "Environmentally responsible use of nanomaterials" is to ensure that detection methods are in place for the nanomaterials tested. While methods exist for the metals and metal oxides examined, there are currently none for carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and graphene. Acknowledging that risk assessment encompasses dose-response and exposure, new analytical methods were developed for extracting and detecting CNTs and graphene in complex organic environmental (e.g., urban air) and biological matrices (e.g. rat lungs).

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2013

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Hexavalent chromium removal using ultraviolet photocatalytic reactor

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Hexavalant chromium (Cr(VI)) poses an emerging concern in drinking water treatment with stricter regulations on the horizon. Photocatalytic reduction of Cr(VI) was investigated as an engineering scale option to remove hexavalent chromium from drinking or industrial waters via a UV/titanium

Hexavalant chromium (Cr(VI)) poses an emerging concern in drinking water treatment with stricter regulations on the horizon. Photocatalytic reduction of Cr(VI) was investigated as an engineering scale option to remove hexavalent chromium from drinking or industrial waters via a UV/titanium dioxide (TiO2) process. Using an integrated UV lamp/ceramic membrane system to recirculate TiO2, both hexavalent and total chromium levels were reduced through photocatalytic processes without additional chemicals. Cr(VI) removal increased as a function of higher energy input and TiO2 dosage, achieving above 90% removal for a 1g/L dose of TiO2. Surface analysis of effluent TiO2 confirmed the presence of chromium species.

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2013