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Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student William Grady, makes this connection in Tokyo, Japan. This current event was reported in Reuters Online News, on September 3, 2013, under the title, “Japan to spend almost $500 million on water crisis at Fukushima nuclear plant,” by Kiyoshi Takenaka and Mari Saito. This likely is real news due to the independent report published about Fukushima’s water issues in the New York Times.

This current event deals heavily with the water resources engineering disciplines of wastewater engineering and management. The main theme of the article is about Japan’s expansive attempt to clean up the Fukushima nuclear plant’s meltdown after the tsunami that hit it and caused the meltdown in March of 2011. Japan has pledged to use nearly $500 million to contain leaks from the plant, and decontaminate the radioactive water present. A large problem seen at the plant is the seeping of groundwater into the plant. The earthquake caused groundwater to leak into the plant and create contaminated radioactive water. To address this groundwater flow issue, Japan plans to build a massive underground wall of frozen earth around the damaged reactors (Figure 1.). This type of method is often used in digging subway tunnels, and is untested on the scale of the Fukushima power plant, and for the planned duration of years or decades for the frozen earth to be maintained. This influx of groundwater flow provides a big issue for Tepco, who runs the plant. If this groundwater continues to flow into the plant, and the removal of the water is not quick enough, the radioactive water will flow into the Pacific Ocean. Additionally, the aboveground tanks where the radioactive water is stored are prone to leakage (Figure 2.). The amount of water they are storing in these leak prone tanks is enough to fill 130 Olympic-sized swimming pools. This leaking of radioactive water can have profound effects.

Figure 1. Proposed Frozen Wall to stop groundwater flow into Fukushima Power Plant (NY Times)

Figure 1. Proposed Frozen Wall to stop groundwater flow into Fukushima Power Plant (NY Times)

Figure 2. Tanks used to store contaminated water at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. (NY Times)

Figure 2. Tanks used to store contaminated water at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. (NY Times)

Economic, environmental, and societal issues are fundamental to any water resources engineering issue and environmental issue. Sustainability can often be defined by the triple bottom line, which is the economic, environmental, and environmental effects of a given project. The Fukushima nuclear plant cleanup relates heavily to economic issues, because the cost of the intended project is nearly $500 million. This will likely cause the company of Tepco to lose a lot of profits and also cause tax payers money. Additionally, if the groundwater flow into the plant is not stopped, then costs could rise exponentially, due to the fact of continuous need to cleanup radioactive water. The radioactive water cleanup relates to environmental issues because the nuclear meltdown and radioactive waste can harm people. Most of the contaminated water leaking from the plant is confined to the harbor around the plant and is not a threat to foreign nations. Most of the radiation is traveling on ocean currents to the Western United States, but is expected to be diluted within water safety standards by the time it reaches it. In addition, the radiation can be harmful to humans. The radiation caused many of the neighboring coastal areas to be cleared of residents for safety issues. The radioactive water cleanup and disposal also relates to societal issues. The radiation displaced many people from there nearby homes. The closest towns to the plant remain off-limits to the public, but some residents have started to return to their homes less than 20 km away. Additionally, the main diet in Japan consists of fish and the radiation could potentially contaminate fish within the area, and then effect the people who may eat them. According to Steinhauser, Brandl, and Johnson (2013), the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown in Russia in 1986 caused many people to be evacuated from the area and caused people to develop health defects. They state that the evacuation of the area was much less organized in Chernobyl and the meltdown was less contained, so the environmental impacts were much greater (2013). Chernobyl was at a much greater scale and effected more people and altered some of the surrounding wildlife (2013). The cause-effect between the nuclear meltdown at Fukushima and the impact to society occurs when irresponsible water and wastewater management practice, can lead to contamination issues, the displacing of people from their homes, and the potential development of health defects within the people exposed to the waste.

Reference
Steinhauser G, Brandl A, Johnson T. Comparison of the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear accidents: A review of the environmental impacts in Science of The Total Environment. 2014; vol. 470-471: pp. 800–817.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental and societal issues. Our student Jeffrey Frelier makes this connection in Guangzhou, China. This current event was reported in Department of Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology, RWTH Aachen University, on June 17, 2011, under the title Water and Informality in Guangzhou by Britta Bockhorn. This is likely real news based off this article describing the Pearl River in similar condition as what was described in the main article.

This news about over population and its impacts on water relates to water resources engineering, in the specific areas of water quality and urban development. The article specifically addresses urban villages which are previously rural areas that have recently become part of the city Guangzhou with the increase in its area. The article also mentions the deteriorating water quality of the Pearl River adjacent to Guangzhou noting that its surface water is a grade V, the worst Chinese water quality standard. It also addresses the fact that pollution entering the river comes from agriculture, domestic sewage, and rubbish. One aspect I wish the writer had gone into more depth with was what can be done to fix the problem and how it got as bad as it is. Is the issue a lack of regulations, lack of enforcement, lack of technologies or some combination of all three?

Economic, environmental and societal issues are all relevant to the issue of population increase and water pollution. Increasing populations have an environmental impact because as populations increase they require more resources and put additional stress on the environment. Water pollution can also cause economic issues as there is a monetary cost to remediate damaged water systems. The environment can also suffer as a result of water damage because it can cause harm to ecosystems. Economic and societal issues are addressed under the section labeled Informal Processes as it addresses the how the urban villagers have given up farming and found other means of living. Environmental issues are the focus of the section labeled urban water resources where it describes the cause and extent of pollution of both surface and ground water near Guangzhou; including untreated sewage (see figure 1) . It is well known in the scientific world that population growth can cause environmental problems. One article also illustrates this well. The general idea of the cause and effect relationship between over population and water quality is that as populations grow they require more resources, those resources turn to waste and that waste turns to pollution.

Figure 1 Raw Sewage being dumped directly into river

Figure 1 Raw Sewage being dumped directly into river

References

Bockhorn BB. Water and Informality in Guangzhou. Water and Megacities. http://www.waterandmegacities.org/water-and-informality-in-guangzhou/. Accessed February 10, 2017.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student, Michael Egan, makes this connection in Dhaka, Bangladesh.  This current event was reported in Environmental Geochemistry And Health in 2014, under the title, Investigation of severe water problem in urban areas of a developing country: the case of Dhaka, Bangladesh, by Mst. Shamsun Nahar. This study is supported in an article by independent source, The Guardian, explaining the declines availability of Dhaka’s safe drinking water.

This article discusses the evaluation of water supply geochemistry in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The study was done in order to obtain detailed trace level water quality data. This is a fundamental step in any engineering process; figuring out what the problem is. Information such as major ions, dissolved oxygen levels, and toxic trace metals within the groundwater was needed in order to define the problem. This process is one of the first steps taken before any clean-up or in-field work should be done. It is vital to the success of any project, especially a WRE one given the many moving parts within an ecosystem. With urban area development being a major recent factor throughout the world, water resource engineering will become an increasingly difficult field for engineers. This is why it is important news that a developing country such as Bangladesh would be proactive regarding the investigation of the safety of their drinking water. While the main focus of this article was not to provide solutions to the problem, it would have tied the article together to at least mention how the recently-defined problem is often solved.

Figure 1: Ground water depth in Dhaka from 1996-2008

Figure 1: Ground water depth in Dhaka from 1996-2008

When it comes to drinking water, large amounts of money will always be involved. Being such an essential resource, drinking water in any area affects the economy and societal issues within a region, especially one of large population such as Dhaka. Shortage of safe drinking water for the city of 15 million will inevitably cause deaths and tragedy. It will cost a lot of money to remove any harmful contaminants from the drinking water and provide sustainable clean drinking water developments. An article by Journal of Scientific Research focused on the surface water pollution around a Dhaka export processing zone and its impacts on surrounding aquatic environment. Five water samples were taken varying in distance from the stationary effluent outlet. Parameters including color, pH, temperature, dissolved oxygen, and biochemical oxygen demand, were measured .Results indicated the surrounding aquatic environment is contaminated by many pollutants released by the processing zone causing major concern for the health of many species within that ecosystem. Testing Dhaka’s drinking water shed light on contaminants within the water as well as some fundamental water properties that affect the environment. This knowledge will help engineers avoid further contamination and lead them down a path of restoration of a healthier environment and a healthier people.

References:

Islam, M. S., A. Sultana, M. S. Sultana, M. Shammi, and M. K. Uddin. “Surface Water Pollution around Dhaka Export Processing Zone and Its Impacts on Surrounding Aquatic Environment.” Journal of Scientific Research 8.3 (2016): 413. Web. 7 Feb. 2017.

Nahar, Mst. Shamsun, Jing Zhang, Akira Ueda, and Fujishiro Yoshihisa. “Investigation of Severe Water Problem in Urban Areas of a Developing Country: The Case of Dhaka, Bangladesh.” Environmental Geochemistry and Health 36.6 (2014): 1079-094. Web.

“Safe Drinking Water Disappearing Fast in Bangladesh.” Guardian Development Network. Guardian News and Media, 07 May 2013. Web. 08 Feb. 2017.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Cusick makes this connection in New Delhi, India. This current event was reported in CNN, on Thursday February 25, 2016, under the title “Protests Throw Light on India’s Water Crisis” by reporter Huizhong Wu. An independent source, British National Daily Newspaper The Guardian, has documented this current event on February 22, 2016 for increased reliability citing that Delhi is the midst of a water crisis due to canal damage by protesters.

A west Delhi resident, Sudhir Goswami, is quoted saying, “When there’s no water, there’s no life” in relation to his struggles with water access. New Delhi’s current water crisis is an excellent example of a city that is in dire need of a new water and wastewater infrastructure. With only three hours of running water a day, residents of New Delhi suffer from the unreliability and non-potable of the current water conditions. When protests went array over job quotas, approximately 17 million people were affected by the damaged, open-flowing Munak Canal (Figure 1). The current conditions of New Delhi directly relates to the field of WRE because it shows the implications of an outdated and failing water infrastructure system, in which water pipes are inefficient and cross contaminated with the city’s sewer lines (Figure 2). New Delhi demonstrates the demand for proper WRE management. A nonoperational water system is affecting the daily lives of New Delhi’s residents and is not generating enough revenue to cover the cost of its maintenance. By poor administration and negligence, the residents of New Delhi are forced to drink contaminated water if they cannot afford bottled water. This report failed to mention how WRE authorities plan to resolve the water crisis and how they will maintain it to ensure that the residents of New Delhi are never faced with this hardship again. CNN’s report lacked sufficient information about the age, building materials, maintenance and possible health complication arising from the declining infrastructure.

Figure 1. One of the damaged areas on Mulak Canal by the week-long protests of the Jat caste for more accessibility to civil service careers.

Figure 1. One of the damaged areas on Mulak Canal by the week-long protests of the Jat caste for more accessibility to civil service careers.

Figure 2. An example of an open wastewater canal that flows into bodies of water used as New Delhi’s water supply. Adopted from Hindustan Times

Figure 2. An example of an open wastewater canal that flows into bodies of water used as New Delhi’s water supply. Adopted from Hindustan Times.

New Delhi’s current water crisis is a trifecta of the environmental, economic and societal implications of a WRE-related calamity. This issue sheds light on the financial stratification dominating New Delhi’s society, which affects the accessibility to clean drinking water. In terms of the economy, there is little government support and financial funding to properly dispose and rebuild a new water system. The municipal water supply is not providing its citizens with safe drinking water. Environmentally, the decrypted infrastructure of the water system could have serious implications on the health of its residents. One study in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia has advocated that the corrosion of distribution pipes have leaked copper, zinc and iron into daily drinking water. In short, the older the age of the infrastructure, the greater the metal contamination that can lead to negative human health issues (Alam & Sadiq 1989). Similar water crises have threatened areas close to home in Washington D.C., Flint, Michigan, and St. Joseph, Louisana as people struggle to have access to clean and safe drinking water through proper WRE planning and maintenance. For those who cannot afford to buy bottled water, they are faced with the hardship of storing water in tanks when possible and using water that is dirty and smelly, according to resident Sudhir Goswami. The Annual Review of Environment and Resources have also demonstrated the impact of water contamination on society. According to Schwarzenbach et al., water quality has become a major concern to human health after chemical contamination (2010). Especially in developing countries, such as India, the toxins released from neglected metal water infrastructure create preventable waterborne diseases. With almost 1.1 billion people without access to potable water and another 2.6 billion people without proper sanitation, water contamination is a growing problem to society’s health, economy, and local environment (Schwarzenbach et al. 2010).  Without the proper economic funding for an updated drinking water and wastewater treatment system, the residents of New Delhi, India will continue to have unreliable and limited access to cross-contaminated water. Not only does the cause and effect relationship between New Delhi’s economy and its resident’s health, but also the environmental impact of mismanaged and neglected water and wastewater systems.

References

Alam IA, Sadiq M. Metal contamination of drinking water from corrosion of distribution pipes. Environmental Pollution. 1989;57(2):167-178. doi:10.1016/0269-7491(89)90008-0.

Schwarzenbach RP, Egli T, Hofstetter TB, von Gunten U, Wehrli B. Global Water Pollution and Human Health. Annual Review of Environment and Resources. 2010;35. doi:10.1146/annurev-environ-100809-125342.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Daniela Cruz makes this connection in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This current event was reported by the Inter Press Service News Agency on September 15, 2015 under the title “How to Fix Environmental Woes in Buenos Aires Shantytown” by Fabiana Frayssinet. The news reported here is likely real news, based on a recently published book that touches on the water problems faced in Buenos Aires, Argentina called “The Politics of Fresh Water: Access, Conflict, and Identify.”

The environmental woes described in this article relate to water resources engineering, specifically in the area of wastewater treatment and sanitation. Currently, in the shantytown called Villa Inflamable, the lack of sanitation and clean water is affecting the health of the community members that inhabit it. The source of these problems? The 64-km Matanzas-Riachuelo River that serves Buenos Aires municipalities before flowing in the Rio de Plata. Because of companies polluting the river with their petrochemical plants, oil refineries, chemical and fuel storage, and toxic waste processing plants, the river has become a “swamp surrounded by trash” and “functions as a natural sewer in the neighborhood.” According to the article, of the 5 million people living near the river basin, 35% of them have no piped water and 55% have no sewage services. Because of this, in 2008, the Supreme Court ordered the Matanza-Riachuelo Basin Authority to clean up the area by converting factories, cleaning the river and riverbanks, garbage collection and treatment, water treatment and drainage works, as well as slum redevelopment and relocation. This would include thousands of projects, all to be completed by 2024, while some projects have been started, there is still a long way to go. The article failed to include the fact that even though cleanup is occurring, companies have to acknowledge that they were part of the blame, and committing the same mistakes again will put them back to where they started.

Economic, environmental, and societal issues are important in Buenos Aires because in the end they all affect one another and can be detrimental to the city in the long run. Economically, pollution in the river is costing the government more to “fix” than to have prevented it in the first place. The aforementioned project plan will cost around 4 billion dollars, and it could have been saved if more money went into maintaining a wastewater and sanitation system. Environmentally, if garbage and sewage continue being dumped in the river, it runs the risk of killing vegetation within it, possibly destroying the aquatic ecosystem. While economic and environmental issues are important, the societal issues are far more serious because the people of the Villa are suffering health issues. The children within this Villa are paying the price with large concentrations of lead in their blood, causing learning disabilities. In the article, a community member said that both of her daughters were suffering from lead poisoning, and another said that her children in 3rd and 4th grade still don’t know how to read because of these disabilities. Lead poisoning can also stunt growth, cause hyperactivity, and impair hearing. This problem can also be seen in Flint, Michigan where the people are also suffering because of lead in their water sources and their governments slowly taking action to resolve the problem (Kennedy, 2016).

Figure 1. Industrial area surrounding the river, contributing more than 1,254 toxic substances

Figure 1. Industrial area surrounding the river, contributing more than 1,254 toxic substances

Figure 2. Street of Villa Infamable shantytown, where population is exposed to toxic waste caused by pollution.

Figure 2. Street of Villa Infamable shantytown, where population is exposed to toxic waste caused by pollution.

References

Ashcraft CM, Mayer T. The politics of fresh water: access, conflict and identity. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group; 2017.

Frayssinet, F. How to Fix Environmental Woes in Buenos Aires Shantytown. http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/how-to-fix-environmental-woes-in-buenos-aires-shantytown/; 2015.

Kennedy, M. Lead-Laced Water In Flint: A Step-By-Step Look At The Makings Of A Crisis. Npr.org; 2017, from http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/04/20/465545378/lead-laced-water-in-flint-a-step-by-step-look-at-the-makings-of-a-crisis.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Alison Coughlin makes this connection in Chengdu, China. This current event was reported in Remote Sensing and GIS for Hydrology and Water Resources in 2015, under the title, Development of Chengdu and sustainable utilization of the ancient Dujiangyan Water- Conservancy Project, by Xiaorong Huang. This is likely real news, based on another article by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization explaining the Dujiangyan Irrigation system, online.

The article focus on predicting the water resources demand for Chengdu, China. Chengdu has an increase in water demand because of rapid urbanization. To predict the water demand, including demands in agriculture, population increase, industry and urban life, the Policy Dialogue Model (PODIUM) was used. This directly relates to water resources engineering with a focus in water resources planning and management. It is important to know that this is happening all over the world. Rapid population growth causes many environmental issues, including an increase of water demand. To meet the needs of Chengdu the Dujiangyan irrigation project will be switching from agricultural to urban water use and the Min River demand will be increased for urban water supply. Figure 1 illustrates the water supply volumes in 2007, and predictions for 2020 and 2030. I think the article could have discussed more how PODIUM was used to make these predictions.

Figure 1 A bar graph illustrating the water supply volume for the year 2007 and predictions for 2020 and 2030 for Chengdu, China.

Figure 1 A bar graph illustrating the water supply volume for the year 2007 and predictions for 2020 and 2030 for Chengdu, China.

According to the news article, “Water resources demand prediction includes three parts: the prediction of economic and social development, economic and social water demand and ecologic environment water demand.” Water demand affects Chengdu economically, environmentally, and socially because if there is not enough water the city will not thrive. The main reason Chengdu grew so rapidly is because of their rivers and high water supply. If they do not have an adequate water supply to meet the growing needs of the people of Chengdu, many people will leave. If people leave, the economy will decrease. Because of this, population increase and social change is taken into consideration when predicting the water demand. To predict the water demand, they also have to predict the economic and social development of Chengdu. Since Min River is Chengdu’s main water source right now and for future water demands, the water quality has to meet the environmental requirements. The water demand project will focus on keeping the Min River area environmentally clean. I discovered that population growth all over the world has a great impact on water demand. An article by UN Water, states between 2009 and 2050, the population of the world will increase by 2.3 billion. The urban areas of less developed regions will grow, meaning more people will not have access to adequate drinking water (Water, 2014). The cause-effect between water demand and impact to society occurs when rapid urbanization takes place, thus increasing water demand, subjecting a city to re-plan and design an ancient water system.

Reference

Water and Urbanization in The United Nations Inter-Agency Mechanism on All Freshwater Related Issues, Including Sanitation, Oct. 2014. Retrieved from http://www.unwater.org/topics/water-and-urbanization/en/

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Caroline Bond makes this connection in Manila, Philippines. This current event was reported in Citiscope, on June 23, 2016, under the title, Cleaning up Manila’s Pasig River, one tributary at a time, by Anna Valmero. This is a believable news story, based on a report from 2011 that stated that Benzotriazole ultraviolet stabilizers (BUVSs), a component of many consumer products, including plastics, building materials and personal hygiene products were found in fishes collected and analyzed from Manila Bay. Manila Bay is fed by the Pasig River. To find more about the accumulation of plastic byproducts in the Manila Bay area, see “Contamination and bioaccumulation of benzotriazole ultraviolet stabilizers in fish from Manila Bay, the Philippines using an ultra-fast liquidchromatography–tandem mass spectrometry”, available online.

This is a WRE story at its core because the solution to keep the water ways clean from pollution requires engineered prevention and continued treatment of contamination. The main message of this article, is that cooperation by both the government and the community is essential for implemented solutions to work. This is important news because it is a success story. In the past year since the project was technically completed, heavy rains have flooded some parts of Manila. Noticeably however, the project has succeeded in keeping the neighborhood around Estero de Paco above water. This article failed to mention in detail the timeline of the problem from the beginning to the end. To know how long the time was between the mere annoyance of a few plastic things floating around to the findings of the bioaccumulation in the Manila bay fish, to the beginnings of restorative efforts until the end result of clear waters would be helpful in order to fully gage how effective the response was.

Figure 1. The cleanup of Manila's Estero de Paco pictured above has become a model for other rehabilitative efforts around other rivers in Manila like the Pasig River.

Figure 1. The cleanup of Manila’s Estero de Paco pictured above has become a model for other rehabilitative efforts around other rivers in Manila like the Pasig River.

Manila is a coastal city, constantly subjected to flooding, when waterways are clogged with garbage to the extent seen in (Figure 1) they lose their ability to drain efficiently. Even moderate rains can quickly overwhelm the river causing flooding to wash up loads of garbage in some cases the same garbage residents tried to dispose of (in the stream) hours earlier. According to Takeuchi (2002) flooding is the most deadly natural disaster, responsible for claiming 40 million more lives just between 1993 and 1997 than drought, winds, landslides, and volcanic eruptions combined. The wastes in standing water have many negative health impacts as they can host mosquitoes and bacterial diseases like leptospirosis which out broke in 2009 after Typhoon Ketsana left Manila submerged for weeks. However the ultimate environmental goal was to stem the flow of waste into Manila Bay where it was being ingested by, and absorbed by, and disrupting the sea life causing still unknown health impacts along food chains. Floods are an economic issue because it disrupts local economies and causes a lot of damage repeatedly. Economically it was struggle for Manila with a highly impoverished community to get behind this project off the ground including a new sewer system however I believe that the benefits will soon outweigh the costs. The constructed wetlands serve a dual purpose as they protect against flooding and create green space which has helped build community, lower the frequency of crime, and bring back tourism to the area as the foul odor that once lingered has mostly left the area. It has also been noted that as a whole inhabitants of manila, are not suffering from illnesses and asthma attacks as much as before. This is a hidden economic benefit as families are now saving money on health related costs.

Reference: Takeuchi, K. (2002, January ). Retrieved January 29, 2017, from Research Gate, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228558237_Keynote_lecture_Floods_and_society_a_never-ending_evolutional_relation

 

Mairead Rauch graduated from the ERE program in 2013. She then continued her journey of service, and social engineering. Mairead is currently a graduate student and Trinity Fellow at Marquette University, which enables students to advance justice and hope through service based scholarship. I had the pleasure of chatting with her at Mother’s Cupboard in Syracuse, and learned how Mairead had engineered a path of service to improve our world.

Mairead, 2nd from right, with her FrancisCorps friends.

Mairead, 2nd from right, with her FrancisCorps friends.

Here is how Mairead recounted her story. As a student in the ERE program Mairead was seeking a way to combine her faith with her talents in engineering in order to provide needed service to our community. Before graduation she earned a position with FrancisCorps, and during the summer after graduation Mairead began a year of service at Francis House, a hospice home run by the Sisters of Saint Francis. This involved community living and comforting the dying, their families, and working with other volunteers. Mairead was humbled to be part of this experience, and grateful for the insights she gained about herself and interpersonal relationships. Clearly, she also found that community living had some large challenges, but by perservering and weathering challenges, Mairead learned more about her own limits, needs, and gifts. The time at Francis House helped Mairead gain the perspectives of others, and as an engineer, this taught her a bit about how she could better meet the needs of older people and the sick.

After FrancisCorps, in September 2014, Mairead signed on to be a live-in assistant at L’Arche Syracuse. In this capacity, Mairead lived in a community house to share duties with three disabled adults. Over the course of that year, she had the honor of spending time with a core member in her last days, participated in the celebrations of those overcoming prior limits, and took part in the everyday joys and challenges of L’Arche life. Mairead highly recommends a year in L’Arche to anyone who wants to explore their faith life and build true friendships, regardless of your ultimate career goal.

Starting in late summer of 2015, Mairead will be in graduate school at Marquette University, funded as a Trinity Fellow. Her academic home is the Environmental Engineering program, which is small, but well-integrated into the general engineering department. In addition to her engineering classes, her Trinity Fellowship requires 3 special courses: Social Entrepreneurship, Nonprofit Organizations; The Nature of Cities, Urban Policy and Politics; and Social Justice, Social Activism. Mairead sees the classes as a good way to understand the scholarship of social engineering and prepare for service-oriented lives or careers.

In addition to classes, the Trinity Fellowship supports Mairead to conduct 20 hrs per week of service placement during the semester, and engage full-time in service during the summer. Mairead has a service placement with the Milwaukee Center for Independence, which works with disabled people of all ages. At the Center, Mairead will be the Family Partnership Coordinator. In this role, her task will be to develop relationships with the families of disabled children, trying to engineer the Center’s programs to best serve the family needs. Mairead understands this work may appear distant from the typical engineering work for an ERE graduate, and the work she may pursue after graduation from Marquette. Yet Mairead feels prepared to undertake and succeed in this wonderful challenge of service!

Environmental forensics professor Dr. Massimiliano Lega of Parthenope University in Naples, Italy recently visited the US to join forces with specialists in remote sensing, modeling, and chemistry and crack down on toxic algal blooms. The story is reported in this National Geographic blog:

Environmental Forensics: Drones and Advanced Technologies to Track Eco-criminals

Below is some of what Prof Lega reported:

The idea for this visit originated in the spring of 2016 while SUNY ESF Prof. Ted Endreny served as a Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Environmental Sciences at University of Napoli, Parthenope. During this portion of the trip a collaborative manuscript on remotely sensed pollution detection was finalized, two seminars were delivered, field sites were visited, and new professional contacts and proposal ideas were established.

Nutrient management is critical to the water resources of this area, which serve as a drinking water supply as well as many other social, economic, and environmental functions. Two examples of problems include Sodus Bay, New York and Toledo, Ohio.

On Sodus Bay in Lake Ontario for two weeks in August 2010 a bloom of toxic cyanobacteria formed and wreaked havoc on residents and tourists; and on Lake Erie in August 2014 an enormous but short-duration harmful algae bloom shut down the water supply for entire city of Toledo.

Prof. Endreny and I are working with partners from the i-Tree tools consortium, including the ESF professors and students, the USDA Forest Service, and the Davey Institute, to address the nutrient management trigger for these blooms. The i-Tree Hydro and related tools are free to the public, and help communities identify areas generating excess nutrients, their runoff pathway as non-point source pollutants into the receiving waters, and recommend locations for strategic plantings of trees and other green infrastructure to filter the nutrients, using them for useful ecosystem services.

To improve the data input for these models, I met with SUNY ESF Prof. G. Mountrakis(Department of Environmental Resources Engineering) to identify shared research goals and challenges with the use of UAV platforms and sensors in environmental remote sensing of terrestrial and aquatic systems.

My practical experience with flight logistics and converting data into forensic evidence complements and supplements information obtained by Prof. Mountrakis using digital image analysis of satellite imagery. Remote sensing still cannot distinguish between the harmful and non-harmful algal blooms, but research is actively developing rapid and accurate methods for in-situ detection. To this end, Dr. Teta met with SUNY ESF Prof. G. Boyer (Department of Chemistry), Director of the Great Lakes Research Consortium, to discuss collaborative methods to improve harmful algal bloom monitoring and management. Dr. Boyer is the lead in several harmful algal bloom projects, including the Sodus Bay site.

Before leaving SUNY ESF, Dr. Teta and I each delivered a seminar on September 6, 2016 as part of a dinner event entitled, “Environmental Forensics with Remote Sensing Methods”, at Attilio’s Italian Restaurant, in Syracuse, NY. The seminars were sponsored by the Council on Hydrologic System Science ( ) and the SUNY ESF Outreach Office community professional development hour (PDH) lecture series. The audience consisted of undergraduate and graduate students and faculty from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry and Syracuse University, as well as practicing scientists and engineers from many firms and agencies the community interested in more effective water quality monitoring programs.

This is a dispatch from Theodore Endreny’s sabbatical in Italy….

Greece laid the foundation for modern education with the Socratic method (i.e., engaging in critical thinking to eliminate faulty hypothesis), the Academy (i.e., Plato created a free institution for students to collectively engage with instructors in higher learning), and the Lyceum (i.e., one interpretation, linked to active learning is Aristotle established a learning environment to get students out of their seats, also called the Peripatetic school). This year Greece constructed a high priority educational initiative on this foundation, to find sustainable ways to reduce urban pollution. This initiative is dedicated to training teachers, and by extension the students. As part of the Fulbright Inter-country Lecture exchange between Greece and Italy, I had the chance to participate in this initiative as a representative of the i-Tree and Parthenope urban metabolism research teams. It was my assignment to share important advances in urban environmental management with the school district of Piraeus, near Athens, Greece.

Piraeus is geographically expansive, surrounding much of the Saronic Gulf, steeped in history, having served as the port for ancient Athens, rich in environmental resources due to its mixture of land and sea ecosystems, and a thriving cultural and business district, with cruises to many of the Greek islands. Our workshops occurred on each end of this blue travel line.

Piraeus is geographically expansive, surrounding much of the Saronic Gulf, steeped in history, having served as the port for ancient Athens, rich in environmental resources due to its mixture of land and sea ecosystems, and a thriving cultural and business district, with cruises to many of the Greek islands. Our workshops occurred on each end of this blue travel line.

Researchers want to share their results, so investing in teacher training is extremely rewarding due to each teacher disseminating the information each year to an eager and high energy group of students. Some of those students then take the information into their subsequent learning and careers, influencing others. To achieve this dissemination, I worked with Vasiliki Kioupi of the Directorate for Secondary Education of Piraeus, in the Greek Department of Environmental Education, and Dr. Anna Endreny, Chair of the Jamesville Dewitt Middle School Science Department and an expert in teacher training, active learning, and science education curricular development. Our focus was to create a workshop and lesson plan that addressed a problem important to the teachers and their students, so that it would be used in the classroom, and generate learning outcomes that could guide future coursework and careers.

The problem identified by the Pireaus teachers was urban pollution and the impact to coastal areas, making waters unfit for fishing and swimming, and lands unfit for growing crops. Our workshop team knew that solutions to this problem should consider local constraints, including the prolonged economic debt crisis in Greece. The teachers wanted their investment in a solution to yield benefits to human well being, available to all, particularly the increasing number of poor refugees arriving in the Pireaus port. The teachers and students wanted a solution that they could implement, as individuals and small communities, to empower everyone to contribute to a healthier urban environment. To better understand the local problems faced by the school district, and begin our dialogue on solutions, we toured the land and water resources with the local teachers.

On the left, the Agia Triada cathedral of Pireaus, built in a Byzantine architectural style. It is located on Ethnikis Antistaseos Street. On the right, subsurface infrastructure project has encountered archaeological resources. Green and grey infrastructure updates will be challenging in Greece due to subsurface archaeological riches, surface monuments, and budget constraints exacerbated by debt crisis and refugee crisis.

In the left photo is the Agia Triada cathedral of Pireaus, built in a Byzantine architectural style after being bombed in WWI. It faces onto Ethnikis Antistaseos Street, shown on the right, where a subsurface infrastructure project encountered valuable archaeological resources. Green and grey infrastructure updates will be challenging in Greece due to subsurface archaeological riches, surface monuments, and budget constraints exacerbated by debt crisis and refugee crisis.

The solution we introduced involved planting and managing urban trees to deliver pollution removal and other ecosystem services. Our research team focuses on how the urban forest and each of its trees is fueled by solar, i.e., renewable, energy to provide low-cost, interconnected functions that holistically make urban areas richer in environmental, social, and economic services. Urban trees can be planted and managed by individuals, and they will significantly improve human well being and biodiversity. For water and soil quality problems, our research team promotes use of tree based filters, which have physical, biological, and chemical properties to treat many pollutants.

A tour of Athens and Nikaia. On the left, the stone theater Odeon of Herodes Atticus on southwest slope of Acropolis (5000 seating capacity, originally built in 161 AD, renovated in 1950) overlooking Hill of the Muses (1 of 4 major hills) and the location of Socrates prison. On the right, Column remnants of the Temple of Olympian Zeus to the southeast, with the National Gardens to the north of the temple, and Panathenaic Stadium (built entirely of marble, hosted first modern Olympics in 1896) further east.

A tour of Athens and Nikaia was designed, in part, to understand the urban landscape and the presence of green areas, and individual trees. We visited the Acropolis to take these photos. On the left, looking southwest, is the stone theater Odeon of Herodes Atticus  (5000 seating capacity, originally built in 161 AD, renovated in 1950) and then the Hill of the Muses (1 of 4 major hills in Athens), which is the location of Socrates prison. On the right, looking southeast, are column remnants of the Temple of Olympian Zeus, bordered by the National Gardens and Panathenaic Stadium, which is built entirely of marble, and hosted first modern Olympics in 1896.

We entitled the workshop, “Advances in urban environmental management”, and at each workshop I was asked to deliver a research lecture on how to improve urban water resources using green infrastructure design. We offered the workshop in two locations, and during each the workshops the teachers would role play the part of a student, engaging in our lesson plans. The first workshop was held at the Public Middle School of Galatas. The second workshop was held at 3rd Public Middle School of the city of Nikaia. Each workshop provided 4 hours of professional development credits for the attending teachers, which is 10% of the total they need to earn each year. The teachers attending the workshop were responsible for courses in biology, chemistry, physics, earth science, environmental education, and student based research projects. We had 16 teachers and 3 community members attend the workshop in Galatas, and 30 teachers attend the workshop in Nikaia. Each teacher teaches on average 100 to 200 students each year, so by training 1 teacher, our message was efficiently disseminated to a much larger audience.

In the Peloponnese are of Pireaus, we visited Galatas, and crossed a 200 m channel to visit the neighboring island of Poros island. On the left, we tour a cave and nearby water sources, and on the right, we lookout over the volcanic activity. The Galatas area has beautiful clusters of pine forests and aromatic shrubs and flowers. We also toured the nearby volcanic peninsula of Methana containing >30 volcanic eruption sites, many of which were visible from the peninsula’s Helona Mountain at 740 m above the Saronic Gulf. This site is considered the western edge of the Aegean islands volcanic arc. While the evidence of eruptions in Methana was still present, with vegetation yet to fully cover lava flows and pyroclastic debris, the most recent eruption was from 230 BCE, as reported by Ovid.

In the Peloponnese area of Pireaus, we visited Galatas region. In the left photo, we tour a cave and then nearby water sources. The Galatas region has beautiful clusters of pine forests and aromatic shrubs and flowers. In the right photo, we toured the nearby volcanic peninsula of Methana containing >30 volcanic eruption sites, many of which were visible from the peninsula’s Helona Mountain at 740 m above the Saronic Gulf. This site is considered the western edge of the Aegean islands volcanic arc. While lava and pyroclastic evidence of eruptions in Methana were still present, the most recent eruption was long ago, in 230 BCE, as reported by Ovid.

The lesson plans were structured to connect the problem to the solution, using cause and effect and deductive reasoning principles. The workshop started with a lecture illustrating how urban pollutants (e.g., nutrients, metals, oils, organic compounds, sediment, etc) travel from yards, sidewalks, parking lots, roads, leaky sanitary pipes, across the landscape or through the soil to receiving waters. This travel is referred to as non-point source runoff. To treat the pollutant during the non-point source runoff process requires mapping its travel, or flow, path across the landscape, and then placing a tree based filter in its path. To better understand the water and soil contamination problem, the students should identify the pollutants (i.e., is it nitrogen or lead?). While schools typically do not have the expensive gas chromatography and mass spectrometry equipment to auto-analyze samples, they can visually characterize samples with microscopes.

Anna and Vasiliki coordinating the computer lessons with SimRiver during the Galatas workshop. The i-Tree Canopy lessons then followed. The success of these computer activities was dependent on the incredible IT support provided by the IT personnel at the Galatas and Nikaia schools.

Anna and Vasiliki coordinating the computer lessons with SimRiver during the Galatas workshop. The i-Tree Canopy lessons then followed. The success of these computer activities was dependent on the incredible IT support provided by the IT personnel at the Galatas and Nikaia schools.

Our first lesson plan connected the complex pollution chemistry of a water sample with a simple, naturally occurring indicator, the diatom. The diatom can be viewed by a microscope. It is a unicellular aquatic plant with > 100,000 species (>200 genera), with varying sensitivity to pollution. In the lesson plan the students used the free, online, SimRiver to: a) virtually collect water samples; b) characterize the diatoms in that sample with microscopes; c) categorize the percent of diatoms that were tolerant or sensitive to pollution; d) conclude if the water sample was polluted or clean based on the diatom categories; and e) categorize the landscape flow path for each water sample; and f) associate clean and polluted water with different landscapes, which were forest, agricultural, and residential, with and without factories. A learning outcome that we emphasized was the association of clean water with landscapes that had more trees.

On the left, a photo of some of the teachers attending the Nikaia workshop. On the right, a photo of some of the teachers attending the Galatas workshop.

On the left, a photo of some of the teachers attending the Nikaia workshop. On the right, a photo of some of the teachers attending the Galatas workshop. The teachers in Nikaia are standing in front of posters that explain environmental research projects conducted by their students.

The second lesson plan had students analyze their landscapes for tree cover, and make inferences about water quality. The students used the free, online, i-Tree Canopy tool to view aerial photographs for an area of interest, and characterize the landscape cover (e.g., tree, house, road) using samples from random points in that area. The scientific method uses random point sampling to improve and qualify the accuracy of our predictions.  We structured the lesson plan to create areas of interest and examine the landscapes around the Greek schools. Once the students determined the percent tree cover for their landscape, they could make inferences about whether the trees were providing a water quality benefit. These inferences are improved by making a site investigation (think active learning, with Aristotle’s Peripatetic school) to examine the likely flow paths for the non-point source runoff, and determine where trees are most needed to intercept and filter the pollutants. The i-Tree Canopy tool also provided a list of other tree benefits, including reductions to air pollutants (e.g., CO, NO2, SO2, PM 2.5) and carbon sequestration, which will help reduce the magnitude of climate change. The discussion of benefits introduced the teachers to the concepts of river basins, and how the landscape cover classification would be used by our i-Tree Hydro model to more accurately predict the water quality impacts of tree cover.

The delivery of the lesson plan ideas and theory to the teachers during the Nikaia workshop.

Anna and Vasiliki during the delivery of the lesson plan ideas and theory to the teachers during the Nikaia workshop. Throughout, Vasiliki would summarize the lesson in Greek, to ensure that language was not a barrier for learning. The Nikaia and the Galatas participants engaged in the Socratic method during these presentations, asking several probing questions to eliminate false hypothesis and focus the discussion on practical solutions to urban water quality pollution. They were extremely interested in tree-based environmental solutions that also improved economic and social well being.

The teachers provided helpful feedback on our “Advances in urban environmental management” workshops. They were generous with their positive comments and gratitude for offering this training; the teachers in Galatas were particularly grateful for us traveling 2.5 hours from Athens to arrive at their relatively remote school, given how expensive it is for them to all travel to Athens for a workshop. The teachers asked for follow-on workshops that continued using hands-on learning, so their students can actively engage in sampling, characterizing, and remedying pollution problems. They also asked that the future workshops continue to use an interdisciplinary approach to problem characterization and solutions. This is motivated by the Greek students taking at least 3 science courses simultaneously, each year, from the offerings of biology, chemistry, physics, environmental science, and research methods. This interdisciplinary framework is shown to provide the holistic perspective needed for solving complex problems, and is evidence that Greece continues to lead the way in education.

 

Our teacher training workshop team, Noah (for honest feedback from a student on the quality of our ideas), Anna, Vasiliki, and Ted, after delivering the Galatas workshop.

Our teacher training workshop team, Noah (for honest feedback from a student on the quality of our ideas), Anna, Vasiliki, and Ted, after delivering the Galatas workshop.

Acknowledgement: The travel for this project was supported in part by the Greek Fulbright Commission and a USDA Forest Service i-Tree award. Logistical support was provided by Artemis Zenetou, Executive Director of the Fulbright Foundation in Greece, Nicholas Tourides, Educational Advisor of the Fulbright Foundation in Greece, and Paola Sartorio, Executive Director of the Fulbright Foundation in Italy. Programming support was provided by Vasiliki Kioupi, Environmental Education Coordinator, Directorate for Secondary Education of Piraeus, Greek Department of Environmental Education. The preparation leading to the workshop was supported by the U.S. – Italy Fulbright Commission and Parthenope University through a Fulbright Scholar grant to Theodore Endreny to serve as Distinguished Chair in Environmental Science at Parthenope University in Naples, Italy, and by the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry through a sabbatical leave to Theodore Endreny.

Vasiliki Kioupi, Artemis Zenetou, Nicholas Tourides, Anna Endreny, and Ted Endreny, at the Greek Fulbright Foundation offices.

Vasiliki Kioupi, Artemis Zenetou, Ted Endreny, Anna Endreny, and Nicholas Tourides at the Athens office of the Fulbright Foundation in Greece.