Wheeler, whose family founded the Park Water Company in Downey, Calif., approached Holden after reading her earlier research, which employed DNA and dye tracer techniques to reveal the presence of human waste in creeks and storm drains, indicating underground sewer leakages.
"Coming from the water business, I know how we worry about underground infrastructure," Wheeler said. "People tend to take it for granted. They think it's down there and it's OK, but it's not. Leaking sewer pipes are a huge problem, and it's not just a local problem; it's ubiquitous."
"We need to know if water is a factor in disease or not, and if it is, we need to remediate it," he added. "That requires good science, and Dr. Holden and the Bren School are up to the task. I wanted to support her and her team, because they're the boots on the ground in those efforts."
When her new project gets under way later this summer, Santa Barbara itself will serve as a lab for sampling, coring, and analysis that Holden said could ultimately illuminate issues plaguing cities around the world. If resulting insights and possible remedies can one day inform or be replicated in other locations, her work will hold potential implications for public and environmental health on a broader scale.
"Groundwater might not be Santa Barbara's normal source of drinking water, but under drought conditions it absolutely can be," said Holden. "There are major cities Tokyo, for example where they've shown pharmaceuticals entering groundwater. So to the extent that this project is meant to be a window into a general problem, we are concerned about the outcomes on behalf of Santa Barbara, yes, but we're also thinking about how it can provide insight into the broader problem."
The vast array of potential pollutants in the shallow urban subsur
|Contact: Shelly Leachman|
University of California - Santa Barbara