EPA Awards $5 Million in Safe Drinking Water Grants

Ten universities received grants from EPA on January 17 for research to develop better methods for detecting harmful organisms in drinking water, including viruses, bacteria and protozoa. The grants, awarded through EPA's Science to Achieve Results (STAR) research grants program, are aimed at ensuring that the United States has the safest drinking water in the world.

"These five million dollars in grant money are an example of how EPA puts science to work to protect human health," said Dr. George Gray, EPA's assistant administrator for research and development.

Every year, there are cases of gastrointestinal (GI) illnesses in the United States associated with drinking water. EPA's sponsored research will result in faster and more sensitive tests for local drinking water facilities to use in detecting pathogens. The sooner a contaminant is identified, the faster a facility can act to contain the problem, and thereby reduce any health risks to the public.

The grants were awarded to the following universities for research on:

  • Tufts University, North Grafton, Mass., $600,000 – a rapid (less than four hours) method for detection of disease-causing organisms by drinking water facilities.
  • University of Arizona, Tucson, Ariz., $466,817 – nanotechnology application for the rapid and economic concentration of GI viruses, parasites, and bacteria.
  • Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, La Verne, Calif., $600,000 – use of molecular biology to extract nucleic acids from waterborne organisms, allowing facilities to detect a broad range of potential disease-causing organisms
  • Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich., $600,000 – new method that can simultaneously detect 20 waterborne pathogens in source and drinking water.
  • University of Washington, Seattle, Wash., $597,987 -- rapid, sensitive method to detect and measure known and emerging pathogens.
  • Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Md., $600,000 – new method to improve measurement of viruses and protozoa in drinking water, that could replace the current reliance on bacterial indicators only.
  • University of California, Riverside, Calif., $600,000 – real-time method to detect and measure intestinal viruses in drinking water.
  • Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pa., $566,714 – sensors that can detect pathogens such as Cryptosporidium without a concentration or filtration step.
  • Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich., $600,000 – real-time tool to determine whether drinking water contains bacterial contaminants.
  • University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, N.C., $600,000 – real-time tool to detect multiple classes of microbial pathogens.

This article originally appeared in the 01/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

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