Posts Tagged: DWRG

World Water Day 2021: Focus on CivMin’s water research

Monday, March 22 is World Water Day
- this year’s theme is 
Valuing Water. 

To celebrate, we’re highlighting the incredible research our
CivMin faculty and students are leading to preserve and value water. 

~

Prof. Jennifer Drake is a co-researcher at the Daniel’s Geen Roof Innovation Testing Laboratory (GRIT Lab). She’s currently working on connecting a greywater system that reuses storm water to irrigate the GRIT Lab's green roof, reducing the embedded energy and carbon.

Prof. Jennifer Drake

Please describe your area of research.

My group specializes in green infrastructure and works on urban drainage issues. While focus the three big technologies: permeable pavement, green roofs and bioretention system.

 

What projects are you currently working on?

We’re getting ready to try to connect a greywater system to the Daniel’s Geen Roof Innovation Testing Laboratory (GRIT Lab) to re-use stormwater for irrigation. This month we’ll be tracking the water quality in the cistern before connecting the system to our green roofs in May

Daniel’s Geen Roof Innovation Testing Laboratory (GRIT Lab).

What companies/organizations are you working with? (can we name them and/or tag?)

The John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, The Meadoway, TRCA, STEP_TRCA, Bioroof, Gro-Bark

 

Who is leading this research and how many are involved (breakdown of profs, students)?

The work is connected to the DesignLIFES’ CREATE Network. I am the lead investigator of this network which includes professors at UofT, UTSC, Ryerson University, Saint Mary’s University and University of Saskatchewan. The goal of DesignLIFES is to train the next generation of living and green infrastructure professionals.

 

What impact do these projects have on the larger scale?

Green roofs are a great technology but require irrigation to support plant growth. Most roofs are irrigated with drinking water! By re-using stormwater, we can significantly reduce the embedded energy and carbon associated with this technology.

The Meadoway in Scarborough is a is a world-class example of innovative and forward-thinking land management. By re-introducing meadow vegetation within the Hydro corridor important ecosystem services are restored. This includes flood control, reduced urban heat island effects, urban biodiversity and, most of all, multi-functional public green space.

To read more about Prof. Drake's work visit https://civmin.utoronto.ca/home/about-us/directory/professors/jennifer-drake/

 

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Drinking Water Research Group

The Drinking Water Research Group (Profs. Susan Andrews, Robert Andrews and Ron Hofmann) examines all aspects of drinking water. One area of research is in the removal of microplastics in drinking water as well as their occurrence in lakes and rivers.

From top left: Profs. Robert Andrews, Susan Andrews and Ron Hofmann

 Please describe your area(s) of research: 

  • Municipal drinking water treatment: Finding ways to address emerging contaminants and to protect the public, but more economically and effectively.
  • Examining treatment requirements to convert municipal wastewater directly into drinkable water. This is the wave of the future in many parts of the world. A lot of places are running out of water (e.g. Cape Town last year), so recycling the wastewater directly into drinking water is going to become more common. Technologically it’s feasible, it’s just very expensive, and we need to find the best and cheapest way to do it.
  • Investigating means to incorporate sustainable “green” technologies into drinking water treatment including the use of biological processes (biofiltration) in lieu of chemical addition.
  • Assessing the occurrence and removal of microplastics in drinking waters as well as their sources (lakes and rivers). A recent Toronto Star article reported, plastics in the environment are considered to be the greatest threat after global warming.
  • Optimizing treatment methods including the use of ultrafiltration membranes for some of the largest cities in Canada.

 

What projects are you currently working on?  

Prof. Ron Hofmann: A lot of small projects looking at how to best use current assets in Canadian drinking water treatment plants to be more effective and cheaper. Also, looking at how they might be able to address newly identified contaminants, such as PFAS or microplastics (this last one is Prof. Andrew’s work).

My own work focuses on activated carbon (the same stuff as the black charcoal in aquariums), and on using UV light to disinfect the water and to destroy chemicals. UV is relatively recent and is very cheap and effective. I have a small project on harnessing sunlight to drive photovoltaic-based UV water treatment for remote and resource-poor parts of the world.

Prof. Robert Andrews: I have major ongoing projects that examine the occurrence of microplastics in Canada as well as elsewhere in the world including Singapore. This work focuses on their removal during drinking water treatment as well as during water reuse (when converting municipal wastewater into drinking water)

Prof. Susan Andrews: My research interests are somewhat eclectic, but they generally include some aspect of the chemistry of drinking water treatment processes or distribution systems. For example, we are beginning some work on some small-scale water mains to see if we can improve the way that chlorine protects the treated water as it travels from the treatment plant to our taps.

What companies/organizations are you working with?

Many of the largest water providers in Ontario (Toronto, York, Peel, Durham, Peterborough, Barrie, London, Ontario Clean Water Agency)

 

Who is leading this research and how many are involved (breakdown of profs, students)? 

The three professors in the DWRG (Profs. Robert Andrews, Susan Andrews and Ron Hofmann) and approximately 30 personnel (Undergraduate students, Graduate students, Post-doctoral fellows, Research assistants).

 

What impact do these projects have on the larger scale? (In what way will engineering address the problems to make the world a better place?) 

Improving drinking water quality, learning more about emerging contaminants that we should address through new regulations.

 

To read more about the DWRG, please visit http://civmin.utoronto.ca/home/our-research/drinking-water-research-group/

 

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Ground & Surface Water

Prof. Elodie Passeport’s research explores the environmental remediation of contaminated surface and groundwater, primarily working on two types of green infrastructure: Constructed wetlands and bioretention cells. Her goal is to improve the reliability of green infrastructure.

Prof. Elodie Passeport

 

Please describe your area of research: 

My research focuses on environmental remediation of contaminated surface- and groundwater in urban, agricultural, and industrial settings. My approach is to characterize the transfer and transformation mechanisms that govern the fate and removal of contaminants in natural and engineered aquatic environments. Human activities use thousands of chemicals that reach stormwater, wastewater, and our freshwater aquatic resources. Some of these chemicals have known impacts on human and environmental health, but many are still to be discovered or are unregulated due to lack of knowledge about their toxicity.

The goal of my research is to improve the design and implementation of remediation measures. To this end, my research seeks to evaluate the efficiency of natural attenuation in contaminated groundwater and green infrastructure. I primarily work on two types of green infrastructure: constructed wetlands and bioretention cells. In support of this goal, my research group also develops new analytical methods based on stable isotopes.

Green infrastructure is a cost-effective and energy-efficient approach to water treatment but must become more reliable before it sees widespread adoption. While in principle wetlands and bioretention cells can eliminate a significant portion of contaminants, their present-day performance is highly variable. My objective is to improve the reliability of green infrastructure by advancing our understanding of their internal processes.

 

What projects are you currently working on? 

There are a few exciting projects in my group on two main topics: 1) Microplastic Research and 2) Stable Isotope Analysis.

  • Microplastic research

Microplastics are small plastic particles, in the 1-5000 µm range, that are widely distributed in the environment, and whose toxicological effects are mostly unknown. In collaboration with Prof. Chelsea Rochman (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology) and Prof. Jennifer Drake, our PhD student Kelsey Smyth has conducted the first comprehensive study of microplastic fate in bioretention cells. This two-year long field work showed an 84% decrease in median microplastic concentration between the inlet and outlet of a bioretention cell. Her work showed that atmospheric deposition was a significant source of microplastics – especially microfibers – in urban stormwater, and urban stormwater was a significant pathway of microplastics to downstream aquatic ecosystems. Green stormwater infiltration systems like bioretention cells have great potential to limit this pollution.

Future research will evaluate if existing total suspended solids models can be used to characterize the fate and removal of microplastics in bioretention cells to better understand if accumulation in the cell is a significant issue.

Figure 1: graphical abstract from Smyth et al. 2021.

2) Compound Specific Isotope Analysis (CSIA)

Compound Specific Isotope Analysis (CSIA) is now an accepted diagnostic tool for identifying and quantifying the transformation of traditional contaminants, e.g., toluene and chlorobenzenes, in groundwater. My group is developing new analytical methods for stable isotope analysis of non-traditional contaminants (e.g., trace organic contaminants). We are also developing new applications of CSIA in less explored environments such as surface water.

Figure 2. CSIA to distinguish transfer and transformation mechanisms

Langping Wu, a postdoctoral fellow in my group is investigating the reaction mechanisms that govern the aqueous phototransformation of benzotriazole, a corrosion-inhibitor present in urban stormwater and wastewaters. Using stable carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen isotope analysis, we found a pH-dependence of benzotriazole direct photolysis which can be explained by a complex contribution of different reaction mechanisms. With PhD student Suchana Shamsunnahar, we have developed a novel method for CSIA of NO2- and NH2-substituded chlorobenzenes. These are common groundwater contaminants that raised significant concern for human and ecosystem health. We are working on a complex highly contaminated industrial site in Brazil with multiple academic and private partners and have proposed a novel method based on passive integrative samplers to conduct CSIA down to very low concentrations.

Altogether, these results demonstrate the potential to use CSIA as a diagnostic tool to monitor contamination and remediation in the field.

 

What companies/organizations are you working with?

Microplastics work: Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA)

CSIA: Geosyntec Consultants, Corteva Agriscience

 

What impact do these projects have on the larger scale? (In what way will engineering address the problems to make the world a better place?) 

Cleaning up water using passive remediation solutions (green infrastructure such as bioretention cells, constructed wetlands) and developing new diagnostic tools to monitor remediation.

 

To read more about Prof. Elodie Passeport’s work, visit https://www.labs.chem-eng.utoronto.ca/passeport/

 

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Warren Lab

Mining, Water and Environment

Prof. Lesley Warren's research examines the largely unexplored bacteria present in mine wastes and impacted waters to generate innovative new technologies that will enhance the environmental practices of the mining industry.

Prof. Lesley Warren, Director of the Lassonde Institute of Mining

What projects are you currently working on? 

The Mining Wastewater Solutions (MWS) Project is developing better tools for reactive sulfur compounds management. Funding for this project come from our mining partners and  Genome Canada and  Ontario Research Fund - Research Excellence (ORF-RE).

My group is also leading a project to constrain sulfur risks to oxygen levels in Syncrude Canada’s first pilot wet reclamation project, Base Mine Lake (BML). Funding for this project comes from Syncrude Canada and NSERC.

 

What companies/organizations are you working with? 

For the MWS project, we are working with Glencore Sudbury INO, Hudbay Minerals, Rambler Metals and Mining, Ecoreg Solutions and Ecometrix Consulting Companies.

For the BML project, we are working with Syncrude Canada and COSIA.

 

Who is leading this research and how many are involved(breakdown of profs, students)? 

I am the Principal Investigator on both projects (both international).

For the MWS project there are three professors from three institutions, three research scientists, one field researcher, 10 students, four post-doctoral fellows and two research assistants involved. 

For the BML project there are three professors from three institutions, one field researcher, 12 students and three post-doctoral fellow involved with the project.

Researchers collecting samples

What impact do these projects have on the larger scale? (In what way will engineering address the problems to make the world a better place?) 

Mining requires huge amounts of water to extract valuable commodities and generates massive amounts of wastewater that must be cleaned according to strict environmental standards before being discharged.  This wastewater also provides an ideal habitat for microbes, and studying these can help reduce wastewater treatment costs and the environmental footprint of the mining industry.

My research focuses on identifying the microbes that occur in these contexts and how they drive changes in water quality or waste stability. These new discoveries  are leading to new models and tools that tackle the underlying root causes of potential risks to the environment.

 

To read more about Prof. Lesley Warren's work, visit https://warrenlab.civmin.utoronto.ca/ 


Connecting with: Sylvie Spraakman

While the U of T campus is closed to the public, in-person classes and non-essential lab work, an attempt is being made to connect with individuals continuing to work from home. This is part of a regular series to help bring us together as we remain apart during this public health crisis.

 

Sylvie Spraakman at her kitchen table work-from-home setup, with cat Jack in the window.

 

Sylvie Spraakman, CivE PhD candidate

Sylvie Spraakman is a civil engineering PhD candidate, working on “Mature performance of stormwater bioretention systems” under supervisor Prof. Jennifer Drake.

She shares her perspective as a graduate student now working from home.

Jack the cat taking up his position in the nice office chair.

I’m in the final stretches of my PhD, so thankfully when WFH [work from home] was required, I had already wrapped up most field and lab work, and was focusing on data analysis and writing.

I like working from home, and so I do have a good home office setup. I need to share that now with my partner, who usually works in an office, so we switch up using the office or using the kitchen table as an office.

My cat Jack is my constant office companion. He really likes that we’re both home now.

With the shorter commute time now, and the lack of other activities in the evening, I’ve had a lot of time for my hobbies and chatting with friends and family. My partner and I love board games, so we’ve been finding ways to play games with others – U of T’s pro Zoom account has been a huge help in that respect. I also like knitting, reading, watching movies, and gardening. We’ve just started a bunch of seeds that we’ll plant in containers on our balcony in late May.

An online group video chat with Sylvie Spraakman’s research group. Sylvie is at bottom right of screen.

I keep in touch with my research group and supervisor regularly about three to four times per week. I’m keenly aware of all the things I’m suddenly grateful for: my research work for keeping me occupied, to have a job that continues from at-home, and for the health of my family and friends.

By Sylvie Spraakman

The work from home setup at the kitchen table. Note the board games the laptop is stacked upon.


U of T Engineering recognizes four longstanding industry partners at fourth annual Partners’ Reception

From left to right: Darin Graham, LG Toronto AI Lab, Summer Xia, Drone Delivery Canada, Stas Dogel, Hitachi High-Technologies Canada, and Jamey Adams, City of Barrie. (Photo: Paul Terefenko)

From left to right: Darin Graham, LG Toronto AI Lab, Summer Xia, Drone Delivery Canada, Stas Dogel, Hitachi High-Technologies Canada, and Jamey Adams, City of Barrie. (Photo: Paul Terefenko)

More than 150 industry and community leaders, government partners and faculty members gathered Nov. 13, 2019 at the Myhal Centre for Engineering Innovation & Entrepreneurship for the U of T Engineering Partners’ Reception.  

Now in its fourth year, the event celebrated the Faculty’s longstanding ties with over 400 industry partners across its six multidisciplinary innovation clusters. In the past year alone, the Faculty launched new strategic partnerships with Canadian and international partners, totalling more than $25 million.  

The reception featured a keynote address by Gillian Hadfield, director of the University of Toronto’s new Schwartz Reisman Institute for Technology and Society. The evening also marked the official launch of the U of T Engineering Expertise Finder — an online platform that enables current and prospective partners to search and connect with Faculty researchers whose expertise matches the industry challenge they hope to solve. 

 “Through continuous knowledge sharing with our research partners, we are able to bring innovative ideas to market, enhance existing systems and technologies, and generate experiential learning opportunities for our students,” says Ramin Farnood (ChemE), Vice-Dean, Research.  

“Many of our undergraduate and graduate students are hired by our research partners, which is a testament to the strength and immense value of these partnerships.” 

Keynote speaker Gillian Hadfield, director of the new Shwartz Reisman Institute for Technology and Society at U of T, speaks to over 150 industry partners at the 2019 Partners’ Reception. (Photo: Paul Terefenko)

Keynote speaker Gillian Hadfield, director of the new Shwartz Reisman Institute for Technology and Society at U of T, speaks to over 150 industry partners at the 2019 Partners’ Reception. (Photo: Paul Terefenko)

Four partners were recognized at the reception for research contributions in aerospace, industrial, electrical, materials and civil engineering:

Small-to-Medium Enterprise Award — City of Barrie (Surface Water Supply Division) 

After installing its state-of-the-art treatment facility in 2012, the City of Barrie partnered with U of T Engineering professors Robert Andrews (CivMin) and Ron Hoffman (CivMin), both NSERC Industrial Chairs in Drinking Water Research, to focus on evaluating and optimizing the water treatment processes for the plant. 

Over the past seven years, the team has developed novel approaches to treating drinking water, which have realized significant performance improvements.  

Jamey Adams, supervisor of surface water supply for the City of Barrie, attributes the success of the collaboration to the researchers’ “focus and commitment to the industry.”  

To date, the partnership has achieved a cost savings of more than $500,000 for the City, as well as providing some of the cleanest drinking water in Ontario to its residents. 

Small-to-Medium Enterprise Award — Drone Delivery Canada (DDC) 

 DDC aims to be at the forefront of how businesses and government agencies use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), also known as drones, to provide services and products to its clients.  

To stay ahead of the competition, DDC reached out to Professor Hugh Liu (UTIAS) for advice. From there, DDC established two research partnerships in 2017 with Liu as well as professors Tim Barfoot (UTIAS), and Angela Schoellig (UTIAS), to explore new drone technologies. 

Liu is working alongside DDC to develop a system that will enable standard-sized modular drones to fly in unison to deliver packages of different shapes and weight.  

Additionally, Barfoot and Schoellig are collaborating with DDC to develop ‘learn and remember’ techniques for UAVs — these would enable a drone to fly back safely to its launch site even after losing GPS signal. 

“The executive team is very open and supportive,” says Liu. “Several graduate students in our collaboration projects with DDC are now employed by the company to continue working with us. It is rewarding to see that our research and talents recognized and valued.” 

Corporate Research Partner Award — LG 

When looking to enhance its products and business using artificial intelligence, LG took note of the innovative AI research taking place at U of T Engineering.  

“Two years ago, our former chief technology officer decided that the best way to improve our customers’ lives was to invest in the Toronto ecosystem, build an artificial intelligence (AI) lab and collaborate on research projects with U of T,” says Darin Graham, director, R&D Strategy and Operations, LG Toronto AI Lab.  

In those two years, LG has established nine projects with researchers in U of T Engineering and the Department of Computer Science, including launching two novel training programs. The first is the ‘reverse internship,’ which brings LG staff scientists into academic research labs for four-month terms. LG researchers return to their corporate labs better equipped to tackle more challenging problems or entirely new areas of research. 

The second training program is the ‘mini-master’s degree.’ Through this program, researchers from LG’s labs in Korea work alongside U of T Engineering professors to refine their skills by completing a capstone project.  

“LG is tremendously influential at articulating interesting research problems, funding new initiatives and providing meaningful collaborative inputs across aerospace, industrial and electrical engineering,” says Illan Kramer, director of industrial research partnerships at U of T. 

To date, LG has committed $6 million over five years with a three-year research commitment for each of its existing nine projects. 

“Our AI lab is located right across from U of T on College Street, which is our commitment to make sure we have close ties,” says Graham.  

Corporate Academic Citizen Award — Hitachi High-Technologies Canada (HHTC) 

Nearly 30 years ago, Professor Doug Perovic (MSE) and the then CEO of HHTC, established a research partnership around the study of electron microscopy (EM), which enabled the creation of the Ontario Centre for the Characterisation of Advanced Materials (OCCAM). In 2019, the partnership is still going strong.

“HHTC has made profound contributions to leading-edge research and training at the University of Toronto,” says Peter Brodersen, senior research associate, OCCAM. “These contributions have been vital to propelling research across the Faculty and supporting institutional research and training goals.” 

Over the years, HHTC has worked closely with researchers from across the Faculty including professors Yu Sun (MIE), Elizabeth Edwards (ChemE) and Jane Howe (MSE, ChemE). 

Before joining U of T Engineering as a faculty member, Howe spent several years working at HHTC. “In my experience as both an employee and research partner, it is clear HHTC is a company that values its rich collaborative history with the University,” says Howe. “This is evident in the success and breadth of its research projects.”  

by Amanda Hacio

Story originally posted on U of T Engineering News


Is there plastic in our drinking water? Probably – and U of T researchers are studying how concerned we should be

These tiny plastic particles were extracted from Toronto’s harbour by U of T researchers Chelsea Rochman and Bob Andrews (photo by Tyler Irving)

These tiny plastic particles were extracted from Toronto’s harbour by U of T researchers Chelsea Rochman and Bob Andrews (photo by Tyler Irving)

Is there plastic in your drinking water? The University of Toronto’s Bob Andrews and Chelsea Rochman say there is – but, unfortunately, they don’t have much more information to share.

“If someone asks me how microplastics in drinking water influence human health, I have to say that we have no idea,” says Rochman, an assistant professor in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology in U of T’s Faculty of Arts & Science.

“But we should be concerned that the mismanagement of our waste has come back to haunt us.”

Plastic never really goes away. While some waste plastic is recycled or incinerated, most ends up in landfills or worse. A world-leading expert on the fate of plastic waste, Rochman has documented how it ends up in oceans, lakes, rivers, as well as along their shores and even in the bodies of aquatic animals.

“All of the big stuff that you see eventually gets broken down by sunlight into smaller and smaller pieces,” she says.

When plastic pieces become small enough that a microscope is required to see them – anywhere from a few millimetres down to a few micrometres – they are referred to as microplastics. As with larger plastic pieces, microplastics are found widely in the environment. Rochman and her team have even extracted them from the bodies of fish for sale in a commercial market.

Concern over microplastics has been floating just below the surface for some time, but it wasn’t until the fall of 2017 that the issue of microplastics in drinking water hit headlines in a big way.

A non-profit group called Orb Media took samples of tap water from around the world, found microplastics in most of their samples, and released their results to the media. As a member of both the Drinking Water Research Group and the Institute for Water Innovation, Andrews, a professor in U of T’s department of civil and mineral engineering in U of T’s Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, knew that his collaborators would be curious about the story.

“Within hours, I got calls from a couple of the major water providers in southern Ontario that I work with, asking me what we were doing on this topic,” Andrews says.

Chelsea Rochman and Bob Andrews have joined forces to develop new techniques for analyzing microplastics and nanoplastics in drinking water (photo by Tyler Irving)

Chelsea Rochman and Bob Andrews have joined forces to develop new techniques for analyzing microplastics and nanoplastics in drinking water (photo by Tyler Irving)

Yet, despite his experience collaborating with drinking water providers on treatment and technology, Andrews had not researched the issue of microplastics before. So he sought advice from Rochman.

She was skeptical at first.

“I said, ‘I don’t think they’re going to be there, but sure, let’s filter some water and have a look,’” says Rochman. “We did, and they were there.”

The traditional approach to dealing with drinking water contaminants, such as heavy metals or organic compounds, is for scientists to determine a target threshold below which the risk to human health is considered minimal. Drinking water authorities then invest in treatment technologies designed to keep the levels of these contaminants below the threshold.

But there is no existing threshold for microplastics, and developing one will be complex for several reasons.

First, plastic interacts differently with the body depending on how big the pieces are. “What we’ve seen in animals is that larger pieces usually just get excreted,” says Rochman. “But the smaller particles can actually leave the gut and go into tissues, which is when you can get inflammation and other problems.”

Another challenge: There are no standardized methods for testing levels of microplastics in drinking water. Different teams employing different techniques could obtain different results, making it hard to compare scientific studies with one another.

Contamination is also an issue since tiny plastic particles shed from clothes, carpets and upholstery can get into the samples and skew the results.

These challenges are further compounded by the fact that microplastics can break down into even smaller particles known as nanoplastics. Nanoplastics may behave differently from microplastics, but information is scarce because methods for detecting them haven’t been invented yet.

“Right now, we don’t have good techniques for handling nanoplastic particles,” says Andrews. “One strategy we’re considering is to concentrate them, burn them, and analyze the gas to determine what types of plastic are there. We’d then have to back-calculate to determine their initial concentrations.”

Andrews and his team also have experience testing the toxicity of various compounds on cells grown in the lab. While they may one day go down this route for nanoplastics, for now Andrews and Rochman emphasize the importance of improved analysis as a key step towards developing policies to address the challenge of microplastics.

“California has already passed laws mandating the monitoring of microplastics in drinking water and in the ambient environment,” Rochman says.

“I think it’s good that those bills happened because they are now forcing this global methods development program, which we’re helping lead. We don’t want to throw out numbers until we feel that we have a sound method.”

The collaboration between Rochman and Andrews is funded in part by U of T’s XSeed program, an interdivisional research-funding program designed to promote multidisciplinary research. XSeed projects include one principal investigator from U of T Engineering and one from another university division – in this case, the Faculty of Arts & Science.

“Dealing with microplastics is the kind of challenge that truly does require people from different disciplines to work together,” says Andrews. “Neither of us could do this alone.”

By Tyler Irving


Originally posted in U of T News


Under pressure: Modelling intermittent water supplies to improve public health

Professor David Taylor analyzes the impact of intermittent water systems, as well as other water distribution technologies, on public health. (Photo: Roberta Baker)

In Toronto, when you turn on a water tap, water comes out. But for more than a billion people around the world, that is not always the case.

“About 21% of the world’s water pipes don’t usually have water in them,” says Professor David Taylor (CivMin, CGEN), who studies water treatment and distribution in the developing world.

“For example, in many neighbourhoods in Delhi, where I’ve worked extensively, the city will deliver you two hours of water in the morning, and then another hour in the evening,” he says.

North American water industry experts may consider this form of intermittent water delivery bizarre: pipes that are constantly emptying and filling are more prone to wear. Keeping pipes full also creates positive pressure that keeps contaminants out — when they are empty, sewage or other contaminants can leak in, only to get washed downstream the next time the pipes fill.

But Taylor’s research shows out that turning off the taps at the source can actually have some advantages.

“If you have no budget to repair leaking pipes, the simplest solution is to turn the water off, because an empty pipe can’t leak,” says Taylor, who recently became the first budgetary appointment to the Faculty’s Centre for Global Engineering (CGEN). “If Delhi’s pipes were full all the time, they would leak seven times as much water as they do now.”

During his PhD research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which was supported by The Tata Trusts, Taylor focused on modelling the distribution system in Delhi and trying to determine how much water per day would meet the needs of the city’s 18 million residents. One of the key challenges was a lack of basic information about the system’s structure.

“Missing information is a classic problem for old infrastructure; in London, England, many of the storm sewers are still unmapped,” says Taylor. “The same is true for Delhi’s water pipes. I had operators tell me ‘We know we’re missing at least one 12-inch diameter pipe that joins network one and network two. How do we find it?’”

Without the resources to deal with missing or broken infrastructure, utility operators typically use trial and error to make the best use of the system that they have. That’s where Taylor sees his modelling and analysis work providing the most value.

“It’s partly a triage problem,” he says. “Maybe 24 hours a day really is ideal, but it could also be the case that four to six hours a day is exponentially better than one or two. So maybe we should get all areas to that level as a first step. And if that’s the goal, where do we start? Those are the questions I work on – which we need to answer if we’re serious about meeting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 6.1 and the Human Right to Water.”

By Tyler Irving

 

This article originally posted on U of T Engineering News 


Microplastics in drinking water: how much is too much?

Professors Chelsea Rochman (left, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology) and Bob Andrews (right, CivMin) have joined forces to develop new techniques for analyzing microplastics and nanoplastics in drinking water. (Photo: Tyler Irving)

Is there plastic in your drinking water? Professors Bob Andrews (CivMin) and Chelsea Rochman (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology) say there is — but right now, researchers don’t know much more than that.

“If someone asks me how microplastics in drinking water influence human health, I have to say that we have no idea,” says Rochman. “But we should be concerned that the mismanagement of our waste has come back to haunt us.”

Plastic never really goes away. While some waste plastic is recycled or incinerated, most ends up in landfills or worse. A world-leading expert on the fate of plastic waste, Rochman has documented how it ends up in oceans, lakes, rivers, as well as along their shores and even in the bodies of aquatic animals.

“All of the big stuff that you see eventually gets broken down by sunlight into smaller and smaller pieces,” she says. When they become small enough a microscope is required to see them — anywhere from a few millimetres down to a few micrometres — they are referred to as microplastics.

As with larger plastic pieces, microplastics are found widely in the environment. Rochman and her team have even extracted them from the bodies of fish for sale in a commercial market.

Concern over microplastics has been floating just below the surface for some time, but it wasn’t until the fall of 2017 that the issue of microplastics in drinking water hit headlines in a big way.

A non-profit group called Orb Media took samples of tap water from around the world, found microplastics in most of their samples, and released their results to the media. As a member of both the Drinking Water Research Group and the Institute for Water Innovation, Andrews knew that his collaborators would be curious about the story.

“Within hours, I got calls from a couple of the major water providers in southern Ontario that I work with, asking me what we were doing on this topic,” he says.

Despite his long experience collaborating with drinking water providers on treatment and technology, Andrews had not researched the issue of microplastics before. So he sought out advice from Rochman, who at first was similarly skeptical.

“I said, ‘I don’t think they’re going to be there, but sure, let’s filter some water and have a look,’” says Rochman. “We did, and they were there.”

Rochman and Andrews examine tiny plastic particles extracted from Toronto’s harbour. Even smaller particles — micrometres in size — have been found in drinking water from around the world. (Photo: Tyler Irving)

The traditional approach to dealing with drinking water contaminants, such as heavy metals or organic compounds, is for scientists to determine a target threshold below which the risk to human health is considered minimal. Drinking water authorities then invest in treatment technologies designed to keep the levels of these contaminants below the threshold.

But there is no existing threshold for microplastics, and developing one will be complex for several reasons.

First, plastic interacts differently with the body depending on how big the pieces are. “What we’ve seen in animals is that larger pieces usually just get excreted,” says Rochman. “But the smaller particles can actually leave the gut and go into tissues, which is when you can get inflammation and other problems.”

Another challenge is that there are no standardized methods for testing levels of microplastics in drinking water. Different teams employing different techniques could obtain different results, making it hard to compare scientific studies with one another.

Contamination is also an issue — tiny plastic particles shed from clothes, carpets and upholstery can get into the samples and skew the results.

These challenges are further compounded by the fact that microplastics can break down into even smaller particles, known as nanoplastics. Nanoplastics may behave differently from microplastics, but information is scarce because methods for detecting them are not merely non-standardized — they haven’t even been invented.

“Right now, we don’t have good techniques for handling nanoplastic particles,” says Andrews. “One strategy we’re considering is to concentrate them, burn them, and analyze the gas to determine what types of plastic are there. We’d then have to back-calculate to determine their initial concentrations.”

Andrews and his team also have experience testing the toxicity of various compounds on cells grown in the lab. While they may one day go down this route for nanoplastics, for now Andrews and Rochman emphasize the importance of improved analysis as a key step toward developing policies to address the challenge of microplastics.

“California has already passed laws mandating the monitoring of microplastics in drinking water and in the ambient environment,” she says. “I think it’s good that those bills happened, because they are now forcing this global methods development program, which we’re helping lead. We don’t want to throw out numbers until we feel that we have a sound method.”

The collaboration between Rochman and Andrews is funded in part by XSeed, an interdivisional research funding program designed to promote multidisciplinary research. XSeed projects include one principal investigator from U of T Engineering and one from another University of Toronto division, in this case, the Faculty of Arts & Science.

Learn more about the latest cohort of projects funded through XSeed

“Dealing with microplastics is the kind of challenge that truly does require people from different disciplines to work together,” says Andrews. “Neither of us could do this alone.”

 

By Tyler Irving

 

This article originally posted on U of T Engineering News 


Nine Engineering professors and alumni inducted into the Canadian Academy of Engineering

Nine Engineering professors and alumni inducted into the Canadian Academy of Engineering

Professor Robert Andrews’ work has lead him to solve real-world problems for drinking water safety.

Nine members of the U of T Engineering community have been inducted as fellows of the Canadian Academy of Engineering (CAE). Professors Robert Andrews (CivE), Sanjeev Chandra (MIE), Tom Chau (IBBME), Heather MacLean (CivE) and Wei Yu (ECE), along with alumni Perry Adebar (CivE MASc 8T7, PhD 9T0), Mark Hundert (IndE 7T1), Christopher Pickles (MMS 7T4, MASc 7T5, PhD 7T7) and John Young (MMS 7T1, MIE MASc 7T4) are among the CAE’s 50 new fellows. The CAE is a national institution through which Canada’s most distinguished and experienced engineers provide strategic advice on matters of critical importance to Canada. The new CAE fellows were inducted on June 26 in Ottawa, as part of the Academy’s Annual General Meeting and Symposium.

“The Academy’s recognition of so many faculty and alumni attests to the tremendous contributions U of T Engineers are making in Canada and around the world,” said Dean Cristina Amon. “It also demonstrates their impact in all aspects of the engineering profession — from engineering education to fundamental research to technology transfer, commercialization and consulting.”

Robert Andrews holds the NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Drinking Water Research, working with industry partners who serve over four million people in Southern Ontario. His collaborations with municipalities have allowed him to solve real-world problems that have a direct impact on the safety of Canada’s drinking water supply. An expert in drinking water treatment, Andrews is a member of several decision-making committees and advisory councils in Canada and the United States. His work has been recognized with prestigious awards from the Engineering Institute of Canada, the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering, and the American Water Works Association, among others.

Sanjeev Chandra is co-founder of the University of Toronto’s Centre for Coating Technologies, one of the world’s leading research centres in the area of thermal spray coatings. He has collaborated with research groups and industrial partners around the world in the development of cutting-edge technology in this area. Chandra’s work has been applied in the fields of spray coating and forming, spray cooling, ink jet printing, agricultural spraying and forensic science. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and the Canadian Society for Mechanical Engineering, and received the NSERC Brockhouse Prize.

Through his research at Holland Bloorview and U of T, Tom Chau has developed assistive technologies which give children and youth with severe physical limitations the ability to communicate independently. Chau created the award-winning Virtual Music Instrument, which allows individuals with disabilities to express themselves through music. Additionally, he has pioneered optical brain-computer interfaces which allow nonverbal individuals to communicate through thought alone. Chau is a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering and the recipient of several awards. In 2011 he was named one of 25 Transformational Canadians by The Globe and Mail.

Heather MacLean is an internationally recognized leader in sustainable systems analysis, including life cycle assessment and its application to energy systems and vehicles. Her work has led to sustainability assessment and life cycle assessment being viewed as critical tools by industry, government and other organizations, and has guided regulations such as California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard. MacLean is an advisor to the World Bank/World Resources Institute for Sustainable Transportation. She is a fellow of the Engineering Institute of Canada and recipient of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation Excellence in Education Award for Promotion of Sustainable Practices.

Wei Yu has made highly influential contributions to the field of information theory and communication engineering. His research addresses fundamental limits of information transmission in communication networks. Yu proposed dynamic spectrum management methods that have been used in millions of digital subscriber lines worldwide and also contributed significantly to the capacity analysis and optimization techniques for multiuser multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) wireless communication channels, which are widely used in cellular networks. Professor Yu is an IEEE fellow, recipient of the NSERC E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship, and a Thompson Reuters Highly Cited Researcher.

Perry Adebar has made important contributions to the profession and practice of engineering in Canada. An award-winning educator, he is known for presenting a strong connection between theory and engineering practice, and his views are highly respected by industry. He is head of UBC Civil Engineering, and was previously associate dean of Applied Science at UBC. His research has had a direct impact on the seismic design of high-rise concrete buildings in Canada. Professor Adebar has provided engineering advice to several consulting engineering firms. He is a director of the Structural Engineers of B.C. and a member of the Canada TF-1 HUSAR Team.

Mark Hundert is a pioneer in the application of industrial engineering and operations research practices in order to improve the delivery of health care in Canada. He has helped to introduce principles and methodologies to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our hospitals and other health care organizations. Among his many contributions in this field, Hundert spearheaded the development of a national database benchmarking the efficiency and quality of care in Canadian hospitals, which has been an essential tool in identifying and addressing areas needing improvement in the Canadian health care system. He received the Ontario Professional Engineers Management Medal in 2008.

A leading authority on microwave heating for metallurgical applications, Christopher Pickles has been a pioneer in the development of microwaves for processing ores, precious metal residues, and waste materials. Other major contributions include the use of extended arc plasma reactors for the treatment of electric furnace dusts and generation of ferro-alloys. Professor Pickles has presented short courses for industry, mentored close to 70 researchers, published over 170 papers, coedited five conference volumes and coauthored a textbook on Chemical Metallurgy. He is a fellow of the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum and has won national awards.

John Young has been eminently successful in the generation and application of new knowledge associated with primary steelmaking operations. He has provided exceptional engineering leadership in simulation modelling and commissioning of numerous steelmaking plants within Canada and abroad. He has coauthored a textbook entitled “Metallurgical Plant Design” and made significant contributions to the training of engineers in industry, as well as engineering students at both McGill and U of T, where he serves as an adjunct lecturer and instructor for MSE 450: Plant Design for Materials Process Industries. Throughout his career, Young has been an excellent ambassador for the engineering profession. He has received a number of high profile awards from AIME’s Iron and Steel Society.

Originally appeared on U of T Engineering News by Carolyn Farell | Posted on June 27th, 2017

 


Leading the way on lead research

Researchers aim to prevent a Flint-like crisis from happening in Canada

An interview with Prof. Robert Andrews, Sarah Jane Payne (Post-Doc) and Aki Kogo (MASc Candidate).

In 2014, the city of Flint, Michigan, switched its water source from Lake Michigan to the Flint River. Inadequate treatment and reporting caused lead (Pb) contaminated drinking water to be delivered to Flint residents, resulting in a state of emergency being declared.
Researchers at the University of Toronto’s Drinking Water Research Group (DWRG) have been actively studying the behaviour of lead (Pb) in water distribution systems since 2012, with a particular focus on southern Ontario drinking water sources.
“The problems in Flint emerged because the alternate water source had a slightly different water chemistry that disturbed the protective lead (Pb)-scale on the existing lead (Pb) pipes,” said Prof. Robert Andrews, a principal investigator with the DWRG. “Short of replacing all the lead (Pb) service connections in the system immediately, it will take time for the damaged scale on the interior of the pipes to build up with time and repair itself.”

Sarah Jane Payne, U of T Post-Doctoral Fellow, explains that scale (the buildup of materials lining the inside of water pipes), much like rust, can be relatively stable. However, it can cause significant issues when disturbed, as it was with the water change in Flint.
“Municipalities add different chemicals, called corrosion inhibitors, to the local water, which react with dissolved lead (Pb) in the water and re-deposit it on the surface of the pipe to form the scale,” Payne describes. “Each water source (lake or river) has a different chemistry, such as alkalinity, pH and inorganic carbon, which affects how the corrosion inhibitors react.”
“The crisis in Flint highlighted what many people take for granted,” said Andrews. “Researchers are aware of real-life issues and through careful experimentation are always looking for unintended consequences. Asking ourselves if we make one change, how is this going to affect something else?”

The science of inhibitors

As far back as the fourth century B.C.E, the ancient Greeks preferred terracotta pipes over lead (Pb). They knew, even then, that lead (Pb) negatively impacted health. Today, we know lead (Pb) is a powerful neurotoxin with serious implications for neurological development in children. Despite this, lead (Pb) has persevered as a material for pipes due to its durability and ease of use. Lead (Pb) service lines, connecting the water main to the home, were widely employed in North America until the early 1950s, when regulations ended the use of lead materials for new lines.

Municipalities today use a variety of methods including the application of corrosion inhibitors, like orthophosphate and zinc-orthophosphate, to reduce the amount of lead (Pb) consumed by the general population. These chemicals react with lead (Pb) to form a compound that precipitates out of solution to form a stable, crystal-like lining on the inner surface of the pipe. The lead (Pb)-scale is very thin – only a few microns thick.

The problem can be made even more complex when considering physical disturbances, changes or fluctuations in water chemistry, and seasonal changes in temperature, which can loosen existing scales and disrupt the chemical balance between the water and the pipes.

Utilities try to form the strongest scales possible given varying water chemistry. Local water quality conditions dictate what needs to be changed or added to reduce corrosion.

“When phosphate-based corrosion inhibitors are used, lead (Pb)-phosphate scales become more and more stable over time,” said Andrews. “Understanding that chemistry and timeline is actually quite complex.”

“Reducing corrosion isn’t just about adding corrosion inhibitors. It can also be about changing the attributes of the water itself, such as adjusting the pH,” said Payne. “It is being aware of these details, looking at them holistically that determines what combination of attributes and additives might lead (Pb) to the least amount of lead (Pb) in drinking water.

Study: Comparing inhibitors

Researchers with the DWRG wanted to compare corrosion control options for Lake Ontario water using the two most common corrosion inhibitors: zinc-orthophosphate and orthophosphate. However, as phosphates are a finite resource, sodium silicate was also selected as a non-phosphate-based inhibitor to research.

“Phosphates are expensive and the price is volatile, so we wanted to include an alternative. That’s why we looked at sodium silicate,” said Payne. “Sodium silicates’ corrosion inhibitor properties have been known since the 1920s, but the funny thing is that no one really knows exactly how they work. So we compared it to the performance of phosphate-based inhibitors to try to understand more about this corrosion inhibitor.”

IMG_0613To fully understand how Lake Ontario water will interact in local water distribution systems, lead (Pb) pipes that had been in use for 65 years were sourced. To simulate a scenario where a homeowner has not replaced their portion of the water service line, a partial lead (Pb) service line replacement was set up in the DWRG laboratory.

“All of our test pipes came out of a community in Ontario. When you think about these pipes, many have been underground since the 1940s. They’ve had decades of different chemical combinations pass through them,” explained Payne. “What their particular scale is formed of and what conditions keep them stable is not well understood. We use real lead (Pb) pipes that have been pulled out of the ground that we know have a history. We can do more realistic experiments with those because using a new lead (Pb) pipe would be a totally different story.”

“Both phosphate-based inhibitors performed very well, though zinc-orthophosphate did seem to perform a little better,” said Aki Kogo, MASc Candidate. “Initially, the sodium silicate did not do very well but later in the experiment we started to see some better results with it.”

Now that testing has wrapped up at the DWRG lab, this setup of lead (Pb) testing equipment will be moved to a municipality’s water treatment facility for future studies.

“It’s through a lot of hard work by smart people that this research gets done,” Payne said. “Just to get the water every week, Aki and Jim Wang [DWRG Research Chemist] transported 500 litres of ‘untreated’ water back to the tanks in our lab. There is so much physical work, time and intellectual dedication that goes into research like this.”

The impact of research

“People in the water industry are very passionate about public health and that’s always at the forefront of any water treatment research,” explains Andrews.

“What we do every day affects millions of people. Our research is done quietly, but it’s really quite important. There are strong researchers in Canada, who are truly focused on the health of Canadians and those around the world.”

Public health plays a significant role in directing the research on drinking water quality.

“There’s the epidemiology and toxicology side that drives the health-based inquiry,” said Payne. “The engineering side looks into accomplishing what is required to meet the standards set by health-based researchers. It is a back and forth iterative process that helps regulators set standards that municipalities must meet.”

“In Canada, we have a lot of utilities that are forward thinking,” explains Andrews. “It is extremely rare for a municipality to change its water source. Because of the safeguards in sampling and reporting that we have in Canada, along with the conscientiousness and vigilance of water treatment personnel, it is very unlikely that a Flint-like emergency situation will happen in Canada.”

About the Drinking Water Research Group

The Drinking Water Research Group (DWRG), formed in 1998, is a consortium of researchers from the University of Toronto. The group operates as a team working to improve drinking water quality through sound research and engineering. With over 25 ongoing projects, the DWRG typically undertakes collaborative projects examining treatment, distribution, compliance and innovation to meet future water needs. Unique resources, including a large number of municipal and industrial partners, allow for various issues to be examined.

 

 


Profile: The Institute for Water Innovation

Water plays a critical role in our lives. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) “the total usable freshwater supply for ecosystems and humans is 200,000 km3 of water, which accounts for only 0.01 per cent of all water on earth.” By 2050 global water demand is projected to increase by 50 per cent due to growing manufacturing, thermal electricity generation and domestic use.

As global water scarcity and stress persist, solutions are needed to reduce pressure on freshwater assets. Now, more than ever, a focus on innovation is necessary to combat water challenges.

The newly established Institute for Water Innovation (IWI) at the University of Toronto is poised to address these challenges. According to Mandeep Rayat, Manager of IWI, the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering has over 30 principal investigators from all the major engineering disciplines with research interests related to water. Seven of these researchers are in the Department of Civil Engineering.

The Department of Civil Engineering is playing a key role in addressing water challenges that affect human health, economic development and political stability.

Drinking Water Research Group: Clean water for cities

The Drinking Water Research Group (from top left: Profs. Robert Andrews, Susan Andrews and Ron Hofmann) examine all aspects of drinking water, from distribution optimization to new treatment technologies.

10593281256_44f81c99b1_k (2)“People in the water industry are very passionate about public health and that’s always at the forefront of any water treatment experiments,” explains Andrews. “What we do every day affects millions of people. Our research is done quietly but it’s really important. There are strong researchers in Canada working really hard who are truly focused on the health of Canadians and those around the world.”

With over 25 ongoing projects, the DWRG typically undertakes collaborative projects examining treatment, distribution, compliance and innovation to meet future water needs. By partnering with municipalities, a broad range of issues can be examined and knowledge transferred directly to utilities, regulators and policy-makers.

Jennifer Drake: Permeable pavement, rain gardens, green roofs

Drake-photo-2Prof. Jennifer Drake is looking forward to the future when her urban-based research on permeable pavements, rain gardens and green roofs will benefit from the collaboration at the IWI. “We know that these [technologies] work, but if you put them all in one neighbourhood, how do they work together? Do they interact? Can they mitigate the impacts that urbanization traditionally has on our water resources? This is long-term research where we can see how sustained small changes can make a huge impact on urban living.”

Plans are already underway to increase opportunities for research investment and collaboration with industry partners to focus on water-related needs of private firms, whose primary issue is water remediation; mining and oil sands production require a lot of water and produce a lot of pollution, which makes water-based innovation necessary.

“We need to conduct research that looks beyond remediation and maximizes water usage,” explains Drake. “We’re trying to build U of T as a leader in water technology and sustainability and now we have something that can unite us and give us a bigger presence. We’re highlighting the water expertise by connecting mechanical, chemical and civil engineering so that we increasingly work together.”

Elodie Passeport: Harnessing wetlands to purify our water

Prof. Elodie Passeport’s research focuses on understanding the behaviour of water contaminants and testing passive water treatment system designs that optimize contaminant removal. The belief that environmental quality is a cornerstone of ecosystems and human health, helps drive her research.

14150843628_b92fe2f37e_k (2)Why are wetlands important?

Natural wetlands are important ecosystems that help control flooding, improve water quality and provide multi-species habitats. Engineered wetlands are a low-cost, low-energy alternative to conventional water treatment systems.

Is it true that wetlands help to purify water systems?

Constructed wetlands can be engineered to enhance wetlands’ natural ability to remove pollution. By using natural energies from wind, sun, soil, plants and microorganisms living in the wetlands, the water is cleaned of contaminants. Early designs used single treatment units, often a pond with plants, but resulted in varying efficiency as not all chemicals could be removed in a single unit. A wide range of conditions are required to eliminate multiple chemicals, e.g. different pH, redox or plant densities.

Current approaches use multiple treatment units, each dedicated to one removal process, such as photodegradation in open-water ponds, or biodegradation in vegetated wetlands.

What are the applications for your research? 

This research impacts storm water systems as well as municipal, industrial and agricultural wastewaters. By better characterizing the hydrological, physical, chemical and microbial processes governing contaminant levels in various passive water treatment systems, we can propose efficient, affordable and low-maintenance designs.

Brent Sleep: Cleaning up contaminated soil

Across the Canadian landscape sit thousands of forgotten sites that once housed industrial operations. These places, known as brownfields, suffer a tainted legacy of contaminated soil and groundwater that prevent their re-use and can threaten the surrounding environment.

14153165189_4ab1ceeeb6_kMost sites are contaminated by chemicals like chlorinated solvents, hydrocarbons, creosotes and coal tars, which can be difficult to remove. Just one litre of trichloroethene, a common industrial cleaner, can contaminate three million litres of groundwater. The worst aspect – these pollutants can persist for centuries in underground water sources.

Prof. Brent Sleep and his Innovative Technologies for Groundwater Remediation research team work with the Institute for Water Innovation to address this challenge. Like a medicinal cocktail designed to defeat an aggressive infection, the group is investigating the enhanced effect that combining two or more different remedial technologies can have on contaminant removal.

Individually, innovative technologies like chemical oxidation, electro-kinetics, thermal remediation, and bioremediation can remove large amounts of contaminating particles. Real-world contamination, however, is highly complex. “Partnering complementary technologies addresses site complexities,” the group writes, “targeting both areas of very high contaminant concentration and areas of low – but still toxic – concentration.”

Sleep’s work aims to make brownfield cleanup more efficient, more cost-effective and more wide-spread.

Lesley Warren: Aqueous and microbial geochemistry

The largest workforce in mining isn’t found in any field camp or office tower. They aren’t wearing safety gear or business suits. They won’t be seen or heard, but their effect on mining operations can be profound. They are naturally-occurring microbes, and they are constantly influencing the water and soil environment.

Lesley-Warren1“Bacteria are present in every aspect of mining, but we don’t fully understand the impacts they can have on water quality,” says Prof. Lesley Warren, an aqueous and microbial geochemist with the Lassonde Institute of Mining and Dept. of Civil Engineering.

Warren aims to determine the identities and roles of microbes in order to gain an understanding of the bacteria’s beneficial—and detrimental—processes. Her research enables the development of effective biological tools for water quality management with industrial applications.

“Acid mine drainage is the number one priority pollution issue for the mining industry on a global scale,” said Warren. “It refers to the creation of acidic water. When sulfide minerals are exposed to water and air, sulfuric acid is generated through a natural, microbial-driven chemical reaction.”

Better understanding of the ecology of the microorganisms that are taking part in this process will help industry alleviate – or even prevent – polluting processes from occurring in the future.


Robert C Andrews: high-tech solutions for cleaner, safer drinking water

Recipient of the Dr. Albert E Berry Medal for outstanding contributions to environmental engineering

Professor Robert C Andrews (left) with Profs. Ron Hofmann and Susan Andrews in the Drinking Water Environmental Labs

Prof. Robert C Andrews, PEng, of the Drinking Water Research Group (DWRG) in the University of Toronto’s Civil Engineering Department, accepted the Dr. Albert E Berry Medal at a Canadian Society for Civil Engineers gala on Friday, June 3. The award, determined by a jury of peers, recognized the work and impact that Andrews’ research has on drinking water.

“I have such great respect for my peers, and to be selected by them to receive this award is such an honour,” said Andrews. “Our work, with industry and municipal partners helps provide clean drinking water to millions of consumers.”

The DWRG has over 25 projects ongoing at any one time. These include collaborative research in the application of membranes to drinking water treatment and examining the potential to remove emerging compounds including pharmaceuticals. Andrews also examines the use of alternative disinfectants for drinking water treatment, which has produced a baseline of knowledge that was previously lacking. The Ontario Ministry of the Environment has incorporated this data into their disinfection regulations.

Andrews began his career at the University in 1993 in the Department of Civil Engineering in the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering, where his research interests included the examination of technologies for removing emerging contaminants in drinking water as well as the reduction of risk that they pose to consumers. Andrews has held an NSERC Senior Industrial Research Chair in Drinking Water Research since 2007.

A consultant as well as a professor, Andrews serves on a number of decision-making committees and advisory councils in Canada and around the world. Health Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Environment and the Ontario Drinking Water Advisory Council have all benefitted from his expertise.

Andrews is the recipient of the Dr. Albert E Berry Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Environmental Engineering by the Canadian Society for Civil Engineers, which recognizes outstanding achievements in environmental engineering; by protecting public health and the environment while preserving our air, water and land resources for future generations.


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