Water quality a major focus of $14 million grant to the University of Arizona

The detection, remediation and prevention of water contamination in the Southwest and its human health effects will be a major thrust of The University of Arizona's Superfund Basic Research Program (SBRP) in the next five years. Another aspect of the program will investigate ways to reduce airborne contamination from abandoned mine tailings.

Nine research projects will focus on two major types of contaminants: arsenic, a naturally occurring contaminant in surface and ground waters throughout the West, and halogenated organic solvents such as TCE, or trichloroethylene. Five of the projects will examine the human health effects of the contaminants and four will develop better ways to detect and clean up contaminated sites.

"We are recognized nationally for our research on both TCE and arsenic contamination and their associated health effects," said A. Jay Gandolfi, a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at The University of Arizona in Tucson and director of UA's SBRP. The program involves about 70 researchers and spans five UA colleges and 10 departments.

Previous environmental studies done by UA's SBRP, which began in 1989, developed technology to detect and clean up contaminants. It's time for the next step, Gandolfi said. "Now we're ready to take the technology from the lab and hone it so it can be applied to these problems."

The earlier research is also starting to pay off in term of treating the health effects of contaminants, he said. "Now our work is aimed at applying biomarkers to identify susceptible people and propose potential treatments."

The new projects, funded by a recent five-year $14 million grant renewal from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, will improve hazardous waste management in Arizona and the Southwest and can serve as a model for arid and semi-arid regions the world.

Removing arsenic from drinking water is a new challenge facing water utilities throughout the West bec

Contact: Mari N. Jensen
University of Arizona

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