Page 32

CONCENTRATING on innovative

SOLUTIONS By: Jennifer Gauntt

Texas A&M’s Superfund Research Center ‘mixes’ scientists from across the campus and the country for projects that aim to reduce environmental hazards and mitigate health risks in the wake of both natural and man-made disasters.

In September of 2008, when Hurricane Ike hit Galveston and Houston, waters as high as 15 to 20 feet flooded large areas and carried with it the sediment found in the Houston Ship Channel and Galveston Bay. Was this sediment safe for the people being exposed to it? Was it toxic? Officials didn’t know. Now, with the support of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), a team of Texas A&M scientists is taking an innovative approach to offer solutions to these kinds of potentially disastrous natural and man-made emergency events before they happen. The Texas A&M Superfund Research Center will develop a comprehensive set of tools that can be used by cities, counties, states, the federal government, and other entities to respond to disasters and mitigate the health and environmental consequences of exposure to hazardous mixtures during emergency-related contamination events. Under the direction of Dr. Ivan Rusyn, professor in the Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), and Dr. Anthony Knap, professor of oceanography and director of the Geochemical and Environmental Research Group in the College of Geosciences, the center includes scientists from across the Texas A&M campus and partners from across the country coming together to conduct four environmental 32 | CVM Today

research projects funded by a five-year, $10-million grant. The projects will include a study on the transportation and mobilization of complex environmental contaminants in sediments; the development of novel, low-cost, broadacting sorption materials suitable for decreasing exposures to complex chemical mixtures; and the establishment of rapid laboratory tests that will help determine the types of human health and environmental hazards to which people may be exposed. In addition, the center will tackle the challenges of understanding and measuring chemical exposures; create new approaches for analyzing “big data” from meteorology, analytical chemistry, toxicology, and geosciences; and help first responders and local, state, and federal government agencies make timely, science-based decisions.

Creating Solutions through Basic Research

All four projects will stem from a case study utilizing Galveston Bay and the Houston Ship Channel. “There are a hundred years of chemicals in the sediment in the Galveston Bay due to the shallow depth and the proximity to a densely populated area. A hurricane or major storm will dislodge and mobilize many of the legacy chemicals in that sediment and eventually deposit it on land. That creates a completely new contamination scenario,” Knap said. “When

CVM Today — Fall 2017  

A semi-annual publication for the faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical...

CVM Today — Fall 2017  

A semi-annual publication for the faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical...