Post-Hurricane Water Decontamination Subject of Promising Research at Dowling
|Dr. Vishal Shah (left), Assistant Professor of Biology at Dowling College, with one of his undergraduate students, Dan J. Badia.|
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Progress Prompts National Science Foundation Funding
A novel method of decontaminating flood waters developed by Dr. Vishal Shah, Assistant Professor of Biology at Dowling College and a team of undergraduate students, has proven successful at the laboratory scale, prompting continued support from the National Science Foundation (NSF).
In material just published online in the journal Environmental Pollution, Dr. Shah and his team, which worked in collaboration with Dr. Jose Pinto at New York's Polytechnic University, describe how they used the principle of the century-old Fenton chemical reaction to reduce the microbial load in flood water obtained from Industrial Canal and the 17th Street Canal in New Orleans by more than 99% in 15 minutes.
"After Hurricane Katrina it was realized that a void exists in the technological expertise necessary to treat the post-hurricane accumulated waters," noted Dr. Cynthia Ekstein, Program Director for the grant at NSF. "It is imperative for us to develop such technology before another disaster like Katrina strikes our country."
"Our method has no major limitations, which would prevent it from being deployed on a large scale as was needed after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast," commented Dr. Shah. "Through the continued support of the NSF, we are now scaling up the process to 100 liters. Our goal is to develop a treatment method that will kill the bacteria, remove the heavy metals and degrade aromatic compounds in one shot." According to Dr. Shah, this system would have the capability of also degrading complex organic compounds such as Poly-aromatic hydrocarbons, textile dyes, pesticides, and phenols.
During the Gulf Coast hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, flood waters accumulated in numerous cities and towns, contacting several contaminating sources and becoming a breeding ground for pathogenic microorganisms. The floodwater was designated as a "time bomb" because of the risk it posed to the living system (including humans). On September 7, 2005, the United States Environmental Protection Agency released a warning stating that the samples tested from New Orleans indicating that bacteria counts for E. coli greatly exceeded the EPA's recommended levels for contact. Pumping this water without treatment back to natural water bodies raised concerns amongst ecologists and environmental engineers.
"It is imperative to decontaminate affected water, such as the flood waters experienced in the Gulf region last year," Dr. Shah explained. "Contamination of large bodies of water will have a devastating long-term impact on the health, ecology and economy of the region. We are optimistic our novel solution will be easy and cost-effective to deploy on a large scale in such emergencies."
About Dowling College
Dowling College is an independent, coeducational college that serves more than 6,500 students at
its historic Rudolph Campus on the banks of the Connetquot River in Oakdale, NY, and the 105-acre
Brookhaven Campus in eastern Long Island and a business center located near the Nassau-Suffolk
border in Melville. Dowling offers Bachelor′s, Master′s, and Doctoral degrees in several
disciplines through its four schools: Arts and Sciences, Aviation, Business, and Education.