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Chemical spill activates Virginia Tech engineers in effort to determine long-term effects
Date:3/10/2014

ters will evaluate if MCHM interacts with plastic pipe and epoxy liners in water tanks. This research will help determine long-term remediation measures for the water distribution system.

Graduate students in Dietrich's Civil and Environmental Engineering Techniques for Environmental Analysis class jumped into the lab to develop analytical chemical techniques that isolated the six major components in the crude mixture and identified their chemical structures.

After identifying the chemicals, they scoured government and industrial databases and realized how little is known about the properties of the compounds. This forced them to master modeling techniques to estimate toxicity and interaction with drinking water pipes and plumbing.

"We capitalize on opportunities to engage engineering students in real-world situations that allow them to make important civic contributions and expand their knowledge," Dietrich said. "We will share what we learn with the scientific and engineering communities for future planning, and with citizens who want to understand more about the effect of this chemical on the water supply."

"This is one of the largest human-made environmental disasters in this century. In instances such as this, where the situation is still developing and public health is involved, timing is everything," said William Cooper, a program director in NSF's division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems, in a news release that announced the awards. "RAPID grants give researchers the support they need to be on the ground and to collect data immediately."

RAPID awards have been given before in similar circumstances, such as the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.


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Contact: John Pastor
jdpastor@vt.edu
540-231-5646
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert  

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