EPA funds lead detection research strategies

Recently, the United States (U.S.) Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revealed that they would be providing Virginia Polytechnic Institute, the State University (Virginia Tech) – both in Blacksburg, Virginia, as well as the Water Research Foundation in Denver, Colorado, to study strategies in order to detect and eliminate lead found in potable water.

“Lead exposure is one of the greatest environmental threats we face as a country, and it’s especially dangerous for our children,” Scott Pruitt, EPA Administrator, said to Water Finance & Management. “This research will move us one step closer to advancing our work to eradicate lead in drinking water.”

According to Water Finance & Management, Virginia Tech will be using their grant to develop a framework based on consumers in order to track and control the levels of lead in drinking water, and research scientists will collaborate with the public and invite citizen scientists to take part as well. By encouraging consumers to involve themselves in the research, the project will raise public awareness of the presence of lead in water and plumbing, and teaching vulnerable communities to participate in pinpointing risks as well as evaluating and implementing measures to mitigate them.

“Our team will establish one of the largest citizen science engineering projects in U.S. history to help individuals and communities deal with our shared responsibility for controlling exposure to lead in drinking water through a combination of low-cost sampling, outreach, direct collaboration, and modelling,” Dr Marc Edwards, principal investigator of the project, explained. “We will tap a growing ‘crowd’ of consumers who want to learn how to better protect themselves from lead, and in the process, also create new knowledge to protect others. Whether from wells or municipalities, we all consume water, and we can collectively work to reduce health risks.”

The grant given to the Water Research Foundation will fund a risk-based model that can be used to identify opportunities to alleviate lead in potable water, including in residential areas. Moreover, they will also create a communication framework that would concentrate on education, outreach, and alleviation. The framework will be a resource for the general public, as well as water utilities and vulnerable communities.

“The ultimate objective of this research is to go beyond advancing the science by providing resources that effectively reduce lead exposure in drinking water,” Jonathan Cuppett, research manager at the Water Research Foundation, stated. “The critical components of the project include generating a risk-based computational model, identifying lead mitigation opportunities, and developing a communication framework to educate stakeholders on lead exposure.”

Pruitt has made lowering lead exposure in potable water a priority, protecting drinking water in the U.S. as well as addressing associated health risks such as stomach issues, brain damage, and impaired cognitive functions. Unlike most contaminants found in drinking water, lead is not commonly found in the water sources, instead entering the water through plumbing materials due to lead corrosion.


Source: Water Finance & Management