This year’s theme for World Water Day 2022 is ‘Groundwater: ‘Making the Invisible Visible’ and groundwater just so happens to be the research specialty of Department Chair Prof. Brent Sleep.
Among many active projects concerning groundwater, Sleep and graduate students in his research group are focusing on the remediation of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) compounds. These compounds are used in non-stick cookware, stain-resistant coatings, and firefighting foams.
“These PFAS substances are quite resistant to the remediation processes, and they’re not easily broken down by bacteria,” says Sleep. “There’s a big focus now on treating these compounds that are so resistant to degradation.”
Sleep and his research team are testing one method which uses colloidal activated carbon injected into the ground.
“The goal is to create a permeable barrier that adsorbs contaminants as the groundwater passes through, in theory leaving harmful compounds behind to be safely treated later,” explains Sleep.
Sleep appreciates how World Water Day brings attention to important water issues, such as groundwater contamination, because for most people this water is out of sight and out of mind.
“Groundwater is a hidden resource to many people who don’t think about it, yet it’s everywhere below the ground surface.”
By David Goldberg