A University of Toronto researcher has developed a more efficient way to monitor and improve the clean-up process for ground water pollution.
Professor Barbara Sherwood Lollar of the department of geology is one of the first researchers in the world to successfully apply the process -- known as compound specific stable carbon isotope analysis -- to the investigation of pollution controls in ground water. The method, which uses mass spectrometer technology, will allow researchers to directly monitor the biodegradation of ground water contaminants in just a few steps. Currently scientists use a lengthy, complex method to measure how bacterial populations in ground water break down pollutants.
Ground water contamination is often caused by harmful substances such as gasoline and chlorinated solvents commonly used in industrial processes, photographic development and dry cleaning, says Sherwood Lollar, founder and director of U of T's Stable Isotope Laboratory. "These are things we come in contact with every day and only a small amount is necessary to significantly pollute ground water. This type of contamination represents one of the most urgent challenges facing environmental scientists, industrial interests, government regulators and society."
Sherwood Lollar and her team are currently testing this process at industrial, residential and landfill sites in Toronto and collaborating with researchers across North America and in the United Kingdom. Earlier this year she was honoured for this work by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Steacie fellowship, given annually to four Canadian researchers who have earned international recognition in their fields.