DATE/TIME: Monday, March 27, 2023, 12:00 pm
Water Institute, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Interdisciplinary research to address infrastructure corrosion, water contamination and environmental exposure events in US and West Africa
Contamination of drinking water, whether perceived or real, harms the health, productivity, and well-being of individuals and communities. Understanding the fate and transport of waterborne contaminants and pathogens in the urban water cycle, quantifying exposure in relevant populations, and mapping resident perceptions onto reality can help us accurately characterize associated risks, protect public health, and uncover or even prevent future crisis events. My work is driven by a deceptively simple question, "Is my water safe to drink?" In this seminar, I will seek to answer research mysteries of scientific and societal relevance around urban water infrastructure, public health and environmental justice in Flint, Michigan and several North American and West African communities using field, experimental, medical, survey, geospatial, in silico and social media data. Some exemplar investigations are listed below:
- What water chemistry, hydrodynamic and electrochemical factors can influence flow-induced failures of copper pipes and non-leaded alloys used in building plumbing?
- What was the magnitude and timing of lead (Pb) release to drinking water and childhood lead exposure during the 2014-15 Flint Water Crisis?
- What will waterborne lead levels look like at Flint kitchen taps in 2023 as a consequence of enhanced corrosion control and 100% lead and galvanized pipe replacement?
- Were maternal blood lead concentrations in Flint high enough to cause excess miscarriages and stillbirths from drinking unfiltered tap water, including in majority African-American population?
- Do official flushing recommendations help reduce water lead for communities with majority Hispanic populations in the Chicago Metropolitan Area?
- How can consumers track chlorine disinfectant levels in low water use (e.g., COVID-19 lockdowns) or low public trust scenarios to protect against pathogens like Legionella?
- Can citizens co-investigate in-home microbiological water quality to identify causal factors behind waterborne diseases like Acanthamoeba Keratitis and Legionnaire’s Disease?
- Could negative labeling around lead “poisoning” in the media have increased special education enrollment in Flint public school children?
- What environmental surveillance and supply chain gaps exist for Ghana and other West African countries to characterize and address lead in rural drinking water systems?