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Final Progress Reports: University of California-Berkeley: Research Translation Core

Superfund Research Program

Research Translation Core

Project Leader: Martyn T. Smith
Co-Investigator: Lisa Alvarez-Cohen
Grant Number: P42ES004705
Funding Period: 2006-2022

Project-Specific Links

Final Progress Reports

Year:   2016  2010 

Overall goals

Investigators are working with a wide variety of external audiences and partners to enhance the integration of important findings from the Superfund Research Program into public policy and the transfer of technology. Specific goals are:

  1. To engage stakeholders in non-governmental organizations and community-based organizations in ways that increase the availability of relevant scientific findings and knowledge;
  2. To increase the transfer of scientific findings and understanding to government agencies in ways that enhance their capacity; and
  3. To increase the capability to use engineering strategies developed through research in the real world through "scaling."

Important accomplishments so far:

  1. Successful and influential engagement in policy discussions in numerous topics at the state and national levels.
  2. Creation of pathways for research translation for both state and federal environmental protection and public health agencies.
  3. Numerous partnerships with non-governmental and community-based organizations.

Accomplishments for the last year


The engineering component of this Core explores how research results are scaled from simple laboratory systems to more complex field sites undergoing remediation. Laboratory studies in beakers can be used to investigate fundamental principles in biology and chemistry, but additional processes must be included when models and experiments are conducted in small field experiments that include more realistic subsurface and geometric conditions.

During this year, their focus has been on radionuclide migration at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. This facility produced nuclear materials for defense applications and generated significant chemical and radionuclide wastes. Fission products from nuclear fuel rods were released as aqueous wastes into disposal pits that rapidly traveled through the subsurface to become springs releasing contaminants into surface waters. The contaminants of interest include tritium, iodine-129 and technetium-99, along with nitric acid as a co-contaminant that mobilized the radionuclides through the subsurface sand aquifers.

Their efforts are testing a conceptual model that the waste solutions were sufficiently high in salts that the density was greater than the ambient groundwater leading to density-driven flow and emplacement into less permeable parts of the aquifer. The contaminants are predominately dissolved in the water, but even though water flow from the disposal pond to the springs took less than ten years, 25 years after waste disposal stopped, contaminants continue to be present in the groundwater. The slow recovery is attributed to a secondary source of contamination from the emplaced waste brines slowly leaking into the aquifer.

They are working with remediation managers to acquire additional data to test their hypothesized explanation and establish conditions at other field sites where this mechanism should be considered.

They continue to demonstrate that laboratory analysis and long-term field monitoring data can quantify dominant transport pathways and evaluate the effectiveness of remedial approaches.

Health sciences

The Core worked to increase the preparation of government agencies and the non-governmental sector for the coming transition in chemicals management. One aspect is to define normative aspects of chemicals policy, specifically the attributes of chemicals that should be considered in making decisions, whatever methods are used. This was reflected in the provisions to identify “hazard traits” in the California green chemistry legislation. Investigators have worked with the implementing agency at the California Environmental Protection Agency on the draft regulations for this, and rules are being proposed this week.

Investigators completed an analysis of the elements of chemicals policy with regard to children’s health protection, considering both international and U.S. national contexts. This will be submitted for publication shortly.

The Core has worked on identifying and disseminating approaches to address scientific findings relevant to children’s environmental health, holding a workshop in 2009. This has led to additional collaborations with the Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units and other partners. Moreover, the SRP investigators are involved in the children’s environmental health centers funded at UC Berkeley by NIEHS and EPA, and efforts are underway to coordinate research translation activities. Co-leader Kyle was appointed by US EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to the federally chartered Children's Health Protection Advisory Committee (CHPAC) and has been appointed to chair a work group on prenatal exposures. SRP research will be included in that analysis.

The Core continues to work with US EPA and other parties on issues related to cumulative impacts. Kyle participated in the US EPA research symposium on Disproportionate Impacts in March 2010 and on a panel with US EPA at the American Public Health Association in November 2010.

What they plan to do next

The Engineering investigators plan to complete the Savannah River project and to expand the work to additional sites. The Health Sciences component plans to complete work on the prenatal work group for the CHPAC and to continue to work to develop research translation projects and tools related to research advances on children’s environmental health.

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