Matching Items (17)

Policy Brief: Developing Safer Alternatives to Conventional Plastics and Supporting the Use of Reusable Products Can Reduce Harm to Health and the Environment

Description

Researchers at ASU have identified opportunities to reduce risk to human health and the environment by changing the composition and disposal practices of polymers. Although plastics have benefited society in innumerable ways, the resulting omnipresence of plastics in society has

Researchers at ASU have identified opportunities to reduce risk to human health and the environment by changing the composition and disposal practices of polymers. Although plastics have benefited society in innumerable ways, the resulting omnipresence of plastics in society has led to concerns about the hazards of constant, low-level exposure and the search for options for sustainable disposal.

The team used examples from public health and medicine-sectors that have particularly benefited from polymer applications, to highlight the benefits of using plastics in certain applications and to pinpoint opportunities for reducing risks from all plastics’ uses. These include phasing out polymers that contain components associated with negative health effects, diminishing the need to dispose of large quantities of plastic through reduction and reuse, and promoting and developing less harmful alternatives to conventional plastics.

For additional discussion please see the publication Plastics and Environmental Health: the Road Ahead available online here.

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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

Description

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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Mass spectrometric and molecular analyses of biological agents in environmental compartments

Description

This thesis discusses the use of mass spectrometry and polymerase chain reaction (PCR), among other methods, to detect biomarkers of microorganisms in the environment. These methods can be used to detect bacteria involved in the degradation of environmental pollutants (bioremediation)

This thesis discusses the use of mass spectrometry and polymerase chain reaction (PCR), among other methods, to detect biomarkers of microorganisms in the environment. These methods can be used to detect bacteria involved in the degradation of environmental pollutants (bioremediation) or various single-celled pathogens, including those posing potential threats as bioterrorism agents. The first chapter introduces the hurdles in detecting in diverse environmental compartments in which they could be found, a select list of single-celled pathogens representing known or potential bioterrorism agents. These hurdles take the form of substances that interfere either directly or indirectly with the detection method. In the case of mass spectrometry-based detection, many of these substances (interferences) can be removed via effective sample pretreatment. Chapters 2 through 4 highlight specific methods developed to detect bioremediation or bioterrorism agents in environmental matrices. These methods are qualitative mass spectrometry, quantitative PCR, and quantitative mass spectrometry, respectively. The targeted organisms in these methods include several bioremediation agents, e.g. Pseudomonas putida F1 and Sphingomonas wittichii RW1, and bioterrorism agents, e.g. norovirus and Cryptosporidium parvum. In Chapter 2, I identify using qualitative mass spectrometry, biomarkers for three bacterial species involved in bioremediation. In Chapter 3, I report on a new quantitative PCR method suitable for monitoring of a key gene in yet another bioremediation agent, Sphingomonas wittichii RW1; furthermore, I apply this method to track the efficacy of bioremediation in bioaugmented environmental microcosms. In Chapter 4, I report on the development of new quantitative mass spectrometry methods for two organisms, S. wittichii RW1 and Cryptosporidium parvum, and evaluate two previously published methods for their applicability to the analysis of complex environmental samples. In Chapter 5, I review state-of-the-art methods for the detection of emerging biological contaminants, specifically viruses, in environmental samples. While this summary deals exclusively with viral pathogens, the advantages and remaining challenges identified are also applicable to all single-celled organisms in environmental settings. The suggestions I make at the end of this chapter are expected to be valid not only for future needs for emerging viruses but also for bacteria, eukaryotic pathogens, and prions. In general, it is advisable to continue the trend towards quantification and to standardize methods to facilitate comparison of results between studies.

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2012

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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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Methods and devices for assessment of fiprole pesticides in engineered waterways

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This dissertation focused on the development and application of state-of-the-art monitoring tools and analysis methods for tracking the fate of trace level contaminants in the natural and built water environments, using fipronil as a model; fipronil and its primary degradates

This dissertation focused on the development and application of state-of-the-art monitoring tools and analysis methods for tracking the fate of trace level contaminants in the natural and built water environments, using fipronil as a model; fipronil and its primary degradates (known collectively as fiproles) are among a group of trace level emerging environmental contaminants that are extremely potent arthropodic neurotoxins. The work further aimed to fill in data gaps regarding the presence and fate of fipronil in engineered water systems, specifically in a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP), and in an engineered wetland. A review of manual and automated “active” water sampling technologies motivated the development of two new automated samplers capable of in situ biphasic extraction of water samples across the bulk water/sediment interface of surface water systems. Combined with an optimized method for the quantification of fiproles, the newly developed In Situ Sampler for Biphasic water monitoring (IS2B) was deployed along with conventional automated water samplers, to study the fate and occurrence of fiproles in engineered water environments; continuous sampling over two days and subsequent analysis yielded average total fiprole concentrations in wetland surface water (9.9 ± 4.6 to 18.1 ± 4.6 ng/L) and wetland sediment pore water (9.1 ± 3.0 to 12.6 ± 2.1 ng/L). A mass balance of the WWTP located immediately upstream demonstrated unattenuated breakthrough of total fiproles through the WWTP with 25 ± 3 % of fipronil conversion to degradates, and only limited removal of total fiproles in the wetland (47 ± 13%). Extrapolation of local emissions (5–7 g/d) suggests nationwide annual fiprole loadings from WWTPs to U.S. surface waters on the order of about one half to three quarters of a metric tonne. The qualitative and quantitative data collected in this work have regulatory implications, and the sampling tools and analysis strategies described in this thesis have broad applicability in the assessment of risks posed by trace level environmental contaminants.

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2015

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Antibiotics as environmental pollutants: associated public health threats and residues in animal protein and biosolids

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This dissertation studies the larger issue of antibiotic resistance with respect to how antibiotics are being introduced into the environment, focusing on two major anthropogenic pathways: animal husbandry for human consumption, and the recycling of wastewater and municipal sludge generated

This dissertation studies the larger issue of antibiotic resistance with respect to how antibiotics are being introduced into the environment, focusing on two major anthropogenic pathways: animal husbandry for human consumption, and the recycling of wastewater and municipal sludge generated during conventional biological sewage treatment.

For animal production on land (agriculture) antibiotics are often used for growth enhancement and increased feed efficiency. For animal production in water (aquaculture) antibiotics are often used as a prophylactic. I found that the same antibiotics are being used in both industries and that the same strains of human pathogens have also been isolated from both sources, expressing identical resistance mechanisms. In U.S. seafood, five out of 47 antibiotics screened for were detected at levels of 0.3 to 7.7 ng/g fresh weight. Although compliant with FDA regulations, the risk for resistance still exists, as even low antibiotic concentrations have been shown to exert selective pressure on bacteria.

Similarly low concentrations of antibiotics were found in U.S. biosolids at levels of 0.6 to 19.1 ng/g dry weight. Of the five antibiotics detected, two have never been reported before in biosolids. Three have never been reported before in U.S. biosolids. Using the raw numbers obtained from antibiotic screenings in biosolids, I assessed the impact of employing four different LC-MS/MS methods, concluding that analysts should experimentally determine the most appropriate quantitation method based on the analyte targeted, matrix investigated, and research goals pursued. Preferred quantitation approaches included the isotope dilution method with use of an analogous standard and, although time and resource demanding, the method of standard addition.

In conclusion, antibiotics introduced into the environment via agriculture, aquaculture, and wastewater recycling pose a combination of chemical and biological threats. Aside from exerting outright chemical toxicity to non-target organisms, antibiotic residues can promote the development of multi-drug resistance in human pathogens. Public health protection approaches to stem the risks posed by animal husbandry may include reserving drugs for exclusive, human use, decreasing their usage altogether, improving reporting efforts, reevaluating existing regulations on agricultural and aquacultural antibiotic usage, and improved risk assessment for biosolids application on land.

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2015

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Analysis and modeling of residual compounds in process streams from U.S. wastewater treatment plants

Description

The presence of compounds such as pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) in the environment is a cause for concern as they exhibit secondary effects on non-target organisms and are also indicative of incomplete removal by wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs)

The presence of compounds such as pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) in the environment is a cause for concern as they exhibit secondary effects on non-target organisms and are also indicative of incomplete removal by wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) during water reclamation. Analytical methods and predictive models can help inform on the rates at which these contaminants enter the environment via biosolids use or wastewater effluent release to estimate the risk of adverse effects. The goals of this research project were to integrate the results obtained from the two different methods of risk assessment, (a) in silico modeling and (b) experimental analysis. Using a previously published empirical model, influent and effluent concentration ranges were predicted for 10 sterols and validated with peer-reviewed literature. The in silico risk assessment analysis performed for sterols and hormones in biosolids concluded that hormones possess high leaching potentials and that particularly 17-α-ethinyl estradiol (EE2) can pose significant threat to fathead minnows (P. promelas) via leaching from terrestrial depositions of biosolids. Six mega-composite biosolids samples representative of 94 WWTPs were analyzed for a suite of 120 PPCPs using the extended U.S. EPA Method 1694 protocol. Results indicated the presence of 26 previously unmonitored PPCPs in the samples with estimated annual release rates of 5-15 tons yr-1 via land application of biosolids. A mesocosm sampling analysis that was included in the study concluded that four compounds amitriptyline, paroxetine, propranolol and sertraline warrant further monitoring due to their high release rates from land applied biosolids and their calculated extended half-lives in soils. There is a growing interest in the scientific community towards the development of new analytical protocols for analyzing solid matrices such as biosolids for the presence of PPCPs and other established and emerging contaminants of concern. The two studies presented here are timely and an important addition to the increasing base of scientific articles regarding environmental release of PPCPs and exposure risks associated with biosolids land application. This research study emphasizes the need for coupling experimental results with predictive analytical modeling output in order to more fully assess the risks posed by compounds detected in biosolids.

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2012

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Linking structure and function to manage microbial communities carrying out chlorinated ethene reductive dechlorination

Description

Contamination by chlorinated ethenes is widespread in groundwater aquifers, sediment, and soils worldwide. The overarching objectives of my research were to understand how the bacterial genus Dehalococcoides function optimally to carry out reductive dechlorination of chlorinated ethenes in a mixed

Contamination by chlorinated ethenes is widespread in groundwater aquifers, sediment, and soils worldwide. The overarching objectives of my research were to understand how the bacterial genus Dehalococcoides function optimally to carry out reductive dechlorination of chlorinated ethenes in a mixed microbial community and then apply this knowledge to manage dechlorinating communities in the hydrogen-based membrane biofilm reactor (MBfR). The MBfR is used for the biological reduction of oxidized contaminants in water using hydrogen supplied as the electron donor by diffusion through gas-transfer fibers. First, I characterized a new anaerobic dechlorinating community developed in our laboratory, named DehaloR^2, in terms of chlorinated ethene turnover rates and assessed its microbial community composition. I then carried out an experiment to correlate performance and community structure for trichloroethene (TCE)-fed microbial consortia. Fill-and-draw reactors inoculated with DehaloR^2 demonstrated a direct correlation between microbial community function and structure as the TCE-pulsing rate was increased. An electron-balance analysis predicted the community structure based on measured concentrations of products and constant net yields for each microorganism. The predictions corresponded to trends in the community structure based on pyrosequencing and quantitative PCR up to the highest TCE pulsing rate, where deviations to the trend resulted from stress by the chlorinated ethenes. Next, I optimized a method for simultaneous detection of chlorinated ethenes and ethene at or below the Environmental Protection Agency maximum contaminant levels for groundwater using solid phase microextraction in a gas chromatograph with a flame ionization detector. This method is ideal for monitoring biological reductive dechlorination in groundwater, where ethene is the ultimate end product. The major advantage of this method is that it uses a small sample volume of 1 mL, making it ideally suited for bench-scale feasibility studies, such as the MBfR. Last, I developed a reliable start-up and operation strategy for TCE reduction in the MBfR. Successful operation relied on controlling the pH-increase effects of methanogenesis and homoacetogenesis, along with creating hydrogen limitation during start-up to allow dechlorinators to compete against other microorgansims. Methanogens were additionally minimized during continuous flow operation by a limitation in bicarbonate resulting from strong homoacetogenic activity.

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2012

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Management of microbial communities to improve growth of chloroethene-respiring Dehalococcoides

Description

Reductive dechlorination by members of the bacterial genus Dehalococcoides is a common and cost-effective avenue for in situ bioremediation of sites contaminated with the chlorinated solvents, trichloroethene (TCE) and perchloroethene (PCE). The overarching goal of my research was to address

Reductive dechlorination by members of the bacterial genus Dehalococcoides is a common and cost-effective avenue for in situ bioremediation of sites contaminated with the chlorinated solvents, trichloroethene (TCE) and perchloroethene (PCE). The overarching goal of my research was to address some of the challenges associated with bioremediation timeframes by improving the rates of reductive dechlorination and the growth of Dehalococcoides in mixed communities. Biostimulation of contaminated sites or microcosms with electron donor fails to consistently promote dechlorination of PCE/TCE beyond cis-dichloroethene (cis-DCE), even when the presence of Dehalococcoides is confirmed. Supported by data from microcosm experiments, I showed that the stalling at cis-DCE is due a H2 competition in which components of the soil or sediment serve as electron acceptors for competing microorganisms. However, once competition was minimized by providing selective enrichment techniques, I illustrated how to obtain both fast rates and high-density Dehalococcoides using three distinct enrichment cultures. Having achieved a heightened awareness of the fierce competition for electron donor, I then identified bicarbonate (HCO3-) as a potential H2 sink for reductive dechlorination. HCO3- is the natural buffer in groundwater but also the electron acceptor for hydrogenotrophic methanogens and homoacetogens, two microbial groups commonly encountered with Dehalococcoides. By testing a range of concentrations in batch experiments, I showed that methanogens are favored at low HCO3 and homoacetogens at high HCO3-. The high HCO3- concentrations increased the H2 demand which negatively affected the rates and extent of dechlorination. By applying the gained knowledge on microbial community management, I ran the first successful continuous stirred-tank reactor (CSTR) at a 3-d hydraulic retention time for cultivation of dechlorinating cultures. I demonstrated that using carefully selected conditions in a CSTR, cultivation of Dehalococcoides at short retention times is feasible, resulting in robust cultures capable of fast dechlorination. Lastly, I provide a systematic insight into the effect of high ammonia on communities involved in dechlorination of chloroethenes. This work documents the potential use of landfill leachate as a substrate for dechlorination and an increased tolerance of Dehalococcoides to high ammonia concentrations (2 g L-1 NH4+-N) without loss of the ability to dechlorinate TCE to ethene.

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2013

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A new approach to groundwater remediation treatability studies: moving flow-through column experiments from laboratory to in situ operation

Description

In situ remediation of contaminated aquifers, specifically in situ bioremediation (ISB), has gained popularity over pump-and-treat operations. It represents a more sustainable approach that can also achieve complete mineralization of contaminants in the subsurface. However, the subsurface reality is very

In situ remediation of contaminated aquifers, specifically in situ bioremediation (ISB), has gained popularity over pump-and-treat operations. It represents a more sustainable approach that can also achieve complete mineralization of contaminants in the subsurface. However, the subsurface reality is very complex, characterized by hydrodynamic groundwater movement, geological heterogeneity, and mass-transfer phenomena governing contaminant transport and bioavailability. These phenomena cannot be properly studied using commonly conducted laboratory batch microcosms lacking realistic representation of the processes named above. Instead, relevant processes are better understood by using flow-through systems (sediment columns). However, flow-through column studies are typically conducted without replicates. Due to additional sources of variability (e.g., flow rate variation between columns and over time), column studies are expected to be less reproducible than simple batch microcosms. This was assessed through a comprehensive statistical analysis of results from multiple batch and column studies. Anaerobic microbial biotransformations of trichloroethene and of perchlorate were chosen as case studies. Results revealed that no statistically significant differences were found between reproducibility of batch and column studies. It has further been recognized that laboratory studies cannot accurately reproduce many phenomena encountered in the field. To overcome this limitation, a down-hole diagnostic device (in situ microcosm array - ISMA) was developed, that enables the autonomous operation of replicate flow-through sediment columns in a realistic aquifer setting. Computer-aided design (CAD), rapid prototyping, and computer numerical control (CNC) machining were used to create a tubular device enabling practitioners to conduct conventional sediment column studies in situ. A case study where two remediation strategies, monitored natural attenuation and bioaugmentation with concomitant biostimulation, were evaluated in the laboratory and in situ at a perchlorate-contaminated site. Findings demonstrate the feasibility of evaluating anaerobic bioremediation in a moderately aerobic aquifer. They further highlight the possibility of mimicking in situ remediation strategies on the small-scale in situ. The ISMA is the first device offering autonomous in situ operation of conventional flow-through sediment microcosms and producing statistically significant data through the use of multiple replicates. With its sustainable approach to treatability testing and data gathering, the ISMA represents a versatile addition to the toolbox of scientists and engineers.

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Date Created
2013