Superfund Research Program
AST: On Target Cards for Monitoring Superfund Sites
Project Leader: Thomas Reilly
Grant Number: R43ES031906
Funding Period: Phase I: May 2020 - October 2022
Superfund sites pose a significant risk to human health for those living nearby as they have high levels of toxic chemicals that can impact the local water and soil chemistry, leading to a myriad of diseases including kidney disease, cancer, and heart disease. Currently the Superfund site list consists of ~1400 active or proposed sites in the United States. There is an on-going need to measure remediation effectiveness and monitor toxic chemical levels over time to minimize the risk to surrounding populations. Heavy metals are common toxic chemicals found in Superfund sites. Traditional laboratory methods are capable of measuring metals but are subject to long lead times (often weeks) as well as high instrumentation and labor costs. As a result, measurements are performed infrequently and can result in unanticipated releases, putting surrounding communities at risk. Because of these problems, several point-of-need measurement technologies are used to measure heavy metals at Superfund sites, including X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) and colorimetric test kits, but both approaches have significant limitations. The field, and Superfund sites in particular, lack simple sensors that can measure multiple toxic metals simultaneously with minimal user steps and at relevant concentration levels. The research team is developing a multiplexed water quality monitoring system for measuring toxic metals in ground and surface water at Superfund sites using Access Sensor Technology's On-Target® card system. On-Target® cards quickly and easily measure metal concentrations in water using proprietary colorimetric reactions that generate a colored circle with a diameter proportional to concentration. While the research team has made significant progress with this technology, it is not applicable to Superfund site monitoring today because current detection limits are too high (ppm versus ppb) and the cards only detect a single metal, meaning users must carry a large number cards with them for complete profiling. During Phase I, the research team is focusing on reducing the detection limits (Aim 1), creating the multiplexed assay (Aim 2), and developing first generation data visualization software while performing initial field studies (Aim 3). Samples from the Lincoln Park site (abandoned Uranium milling site) in Fremont County, Colorado are being used for testing. The research team's sensing system is being validated against ICP-MS or AAS for rigor. At the end of Phase I, the research team will have successfully created a prototype second-generation On-Target® product that enables multiplexed metal analysis at concentration levels relevant to the research team's customers. The effort will position the research team for both further development during Phase II with additional analytes and penetration into the market through connections with early adopters.