Superfund Research Program
Developing In Situ, Real-time Sensors for Toxicants at Superfund Sites, to Protect Public Health and Optimize Cleanup
- Project Summary
Mitigating chemical risks to the public from Superfund and similar contaminated sites requires identification of chemical toxicants in the environment, followed by a) determination of toxicant concentrations, b) identification of pathways of possible human exposure, and c) location of toxicants’ sources and measurement of their environmental movements, in order to design and prioritize cleanup activities. The first goal of this project is to enable the above public-health-protective steps to be taken in a more cost-effective and timely manner by creating new chemical microsensors that combine low cost, portability, and specificity. The sensors will greatly reduce the cost of identifying and measuring chemical hazards in the environment and be an asset to environmental and public health professionals as well as to citizen scientists who want to better understand chemical risks in their environment. Because chemically contaminated rivers often have contaminated sediments, a second goal is to create a sediment-to-water flux sensor, an instrument that can measure how fast toxicants are released to the water. Chemicals that enter water that people drink or contact are of more immediate priority than chemicals that are permanently immobilized in sediment and hence removed from human contact. Work during the past year has led to a promising new microsensor, as well as improvements to the chemical flux instrument, and to several initial field tests of the complete instrument at a local field site. Ultimately, the activities for this project will inform cleanup of the Olin Chemical Superfund Site and the Former Loring Air Force Base and raise awareness about contaminants relevant to health.