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New software aids fight against nitrates in Florida's groundwater
Date:7/6/2011

As a young scholar, Fernando Rios loved science and computer programming equally. So when Rios who holds a bachelor's degree in physics from Canada's University of Waterloo went looking for a graduate program, he discovered the Department of Scientific Computing at Florida State University, which has about 35 graduate students and launched a new undergraduate program of computational sciences in fall 2010.

Now, along with his FSU professor and colleagues, Rios has written an important and practical software program that could protect Florida's lakes and rivers from excessive pollutants.

"I wanted to use both my science and computing skills at the same time, not just one or the other," said Rios, who, along with associate professor of computational hydrology/geology Ming Ye, recently spent two and half years developing the software, which is designed to help local and state government measure the amount of nitrates from septic systems that end up in surface water bodies such as lakes and rivers.

"In Florida, there's a lot of septic tank usage and an increased potential for increased groundwater and surface contamination," said Rios, who wrote the software known as ArcNLET (ArcGIS-Based Nitrate Load Estimation Toolkit). "When the nitrates enter groundwater, they can end up in drinking water and surface water."

Nitrates in drinking water may cause a health disorder known as methemoglobinemia, which in newborns can manifest itself as a sometimes-fatal condition called "blue baby syndrome." Discharge of nitrate-rich groundwater into surface waters also can lead to fish kills, algal growth, hypoxia, eutrophication (a bloom of phytoplankton), and outbreaks of toxic bacteria.

ArcNLET, which is free and available on Ye's website, officially will debut at a training workshop on Friday, July 8, in the Geography Information Systems Laboratory<
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Contact: Ming Ye
mingye@scs.fsu.edu
850-644-4587
Florida State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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