e•Bulletin: 2014 - Issue 8

Research on the Horizon | Agency Webinar | Community Profile | UW SRP Collaborations

Welcome to Issue 8 of the University of Washington's Superfund Research Program (UW-SRP) e*bulletin!  In this edition we share exciting new research directions for our program; information regarding an upcoming webinar concerning climate change action; a profile on the SHAWL Society; and updates for UW-SRP collaborators The Northwest Toxic Communities Coalition.
Our Principal Investigator, Dr. Evan Gallagher, and Research Translation Core Director, Dr. Tom Burbacher, invite you to please read and enjoy the stories that catch your eye.


Research on the Horizon

Evan GallagherThe University of Washington Superfund Research Program (UW SRP) will initiate 3 new research projects next year if our competing renewal is supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). The overall focus of the program will continue to be investigating early biomarkers for neurotoxic compounds such as manganese, copper and pesticides. One proposed new study by Dr. Zhengui Xia will examine the impacts of cadmium on memory formation and function in adults and children. Cadmium is a heavy metal with an extended biological half-life in humans (staying in the body from ten to thirty years). Cadmium is common to Superfund hazardous waste sites and is a component of air pollution. Dr. Xia’s research findings on central nervous system injuries and motor impairment will dovetail with the program’s ongoing work related to the mechanisms that underlie neurodegeneration.

A second new project by Dr. Rebecca Neumann will advance current understanding of arsenic’s ‘mobility’ in natural aquatic systems, such as fresh water lakes. Arsenic is a neurotoxic and carcinogenetic pollutant. It is regionally important in the Pacific Northwest in part because of historic metal smelter operations that left a legacy of arsenic and other metals in urban areas. As with other metals such as mercury, arsenic can accumulate up the aquatic food-web and reach levels associated with health effects in humans.

The third new project expands our ongoing investigation into the health effects of manganese exposure. Dr. Brad Racette is currently conducting a study on environmental manganese exposure from mining operations in Meyerton, South Africa.  The focus of the project will be on quantifying community exposure from the mining operations and investigating the health effects on the community.

These projects join continuing projects led by Dr. Evan Gallagher and Drs. Lucio Costa and Clem Furlong. Dr. Gallagher’s research uses field and laboratory studies to address chemical causes of behavioral defects in Pacific salmon stemming from loss of olfactory function that is critical to the specie's survival. Drs. Lucio Costa and Clem Furlong investigate the role of genetic variability in paraoxonase enzymes in metals and organophosphorus pesticides. Dr. Fred Farin continues to direct the UW SRP Functional Genomics and Bioinformatics Core, which enables UW SRP investigators to utilize a wide range of methodologies to identify markers of exposure to toxicants that are present in hazardous waste sites.  Graduate trainees participate in all UW SRP Projects assisting in research as well as being involved in science translation opportunities and outreach activities with UW SRP partnering community organizations, governmental agencies and peer universities.

Agency Webinar

Amy SnoverIn June 2013, President Obama announced his Climate Action Plan. A critical element of the Plan is to assist states, Tribes, and local governments to prepare for negative climate-related consequences that may lie ahead. In May of this year, the Third National Climate Assessment was released, including a chapter on the Pacific Northwest. One of the key messages from the Assessment was the need for federal, state, Tribal, and local communities to develop adaptive responses to observed and projected impacts associated with climate change, which will differ across the nation including the Pacific Northwest.

In order to provide assistance to governments in responding to those impacts, the UW SRP Research Translation and Community Engagement Core is sponsoring a webinar by Dr. Amy Snover of the University of Washington Climate Impacts Group to discuss approaches and tools for how to use climate change projections for prioritizing climate change efforts. The webinar will draw on the recent publication by Dr. Snover and her colleagues "Choosing and Using Climate-Change Scenarios for Ecological-Impact Assessments and Conservation Decisions" in journal ‘Conservation Biology’. The webinar will provide a preview of an online tool being developed by the Climate Impacts Group to explore when and where climate change will have an impact in the Northwest. The goal of the webinar is to provide a discussion forum for regulatory, environmental and resource management organizations in the Pacific Northwest. Goals include building regional capacity regarding climate change and exploring resources that can be integrated to meet agency needs. Dr. Snover, Director of the Climate Impacts Group, in the College of the Environment works with decision makers to help them develop science-based strategies for addressing climate risks, and to develop priorities for research, tool development and outreach. Dr. Snover’s webinar will be held on December 10th, from noon to 1pm PST.

The UW SRP sponsors regular seminars held in Seattle at the regional EPA headquarters (a webinar connection is available.) The seminars are directed toward an audience of agency staff involved with risk assessment and communication at Superfund sites, such as EPA Region 10 and the Washington State Departments of Health and Ecology. Topic requests come from our agency partners - the series provides a forum for intra-agency discussions with scientists about current research and applications of the science. For more information on upcoming seminars click here.

Community Profile


The SHAWL Society (Sovereignty, Health, Air, Water, Land) was created in 1994 to address environmental and human health effects associated with uranium mining that began on the Spokane Tribal Reservation in the 1950’s. The Midnite Mine site was listed as a Superfund site by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2000. The Dawn Mining Company, LLC, and Newmont USA Limited are the responsible parties for the site and will complete the cleanup work, overseen by the Spokane Tribe and the EPA. For a number of years SHAWL Society documented worker exposure histories and illnesses among former mine workers with a goal of limiting further exposures of tribal members and to increase accountability and transparency of corporate entities and government agencies involved. Since the site was listed, the SHAWL Society has worked with former uranium mine workers to provide them with important information about RECA (Radiation Exposure Compensation Act). RECA is a federal compensation program that allows eligible workers or their survivors to file a compensation benefits claim for certain health effects related to the mining operations. Over the last decade, Deb Abrahamson, executive director of SHAWL Society, played a key role in initiating a successful grant submission to the federal Radiation Exposure Screening and Education Program (RESEP). The grant collaborators include Indian Health Service, Spokane Tribe, Northwest Indian Health Board. In 2012 the Spokane Tribe was awarded a federal RESEP grant which has been active through August of 2014 and also has the opportunity for renewal.

The SHAWL Society is working with the Spokane Tribe and the EPA to apply Technical Assistance Services for Communities (TASC) funds during the ‘Record of Decision’ period of the Superfund Process, to deepen community understanding of the health risks associated with uranium, heavy metals, acid mine drainage and other toxicants have been identified in some local soil and water. Over the last twenty years the SHAWL Society has proven to be an effective leader; raising awareness and broadening knowledge for improved cleanup outcomes.

To learn more about some of content of a Community Workshop held on October 29th follow this link.

UW SRP Collaborations

Northwest Toxic Communitties Coalition Summit

The Northwest Toxic Communities Coalition (NWTCC) will host a webinar on November 19th entitled "How do our Contaminated Cleanup Sites Compare?" The webinar will be conducted by Dr. Peter L. deFur, president of Environmental Stewardship Concepts. Dr. deFur is meeting with community groups at their cleanup sites in EPA Region 10. His webinar will draw comparisons of regional cleanup sites on which he is working – types of contaminants, cleanup plans, and alternative cleanup options. This initiative by the Northwest Toxic Communities Coalition directly addresses an area central to the mission of the organization - “to connect with and empower communities impacted by toxic waste and to share resources, information, and support for toxic cleanup efforts throughout the Northwest states.” The proposed webinar will bring together regional members working on both Superfund and other hazardous waste site cleanups. It builds upon previous successful activities conducted by the coalition over past years.

The NWTCC was successful in obtaining funding from the Seattle-based 'Horizons Foundation'. This grant provided travel support for Coalition members to attend a Coalition Annual Summit in Fall 2013. Earlier this year, the NWTCC also received support from both 'The Rose Foundation' and the 'Horizons Foundation' to meet requests for assistance in public education and community engagement related to the use of land-spreading of contaminated sewage sludge as compost/fertilizer for farm and forest soils and for growing food. One product of the funding is an educational flyer. The immediate goal of this material is to inform the public of this practice and to urge people to ask grocers if their food is grown in sewage sludge containing soils and to ask nurseries if the compost/fertilizer/soil amendments contain sewage sludge.

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Researchers and Partners in Action

Dr. Evan Gallagher's work on emerging contaminants.

Dr. Tom Burbacher was lead organizer and session chair at the Neurobehavioral Teratology Society Meeting Annual Conference in July. Speakers included UW SRP investigator Clem Furlong and emeritus SRP investigator James Woods.

The research of Clem Furlong, Toby Cole, and Fred Farin indicates that maternal PON1 status modulates effects on the fetus.

University of Washington faculty, Dr. Bill Daniell, encourages further discussion concerning the plans that EPA Region 10 has for the Duwamish River.

UW SRP Project 4 posters at the 2014 SETAC Conference:
Chase Williams - Developing sensitive markers of cadmium-inhibition of odorant perception in Coho salmon
Andrew Yeh - Assessing sublethal effects and generating biomarkers for biomonitoring of emerging contaminants of concern in the Puget Sound

Upcoming Events

November 12-14, 2014
NIEHS Superfund Research Program Annual Meeting 2014

November 19, 2014
How do our Contaminated Cleanup Sites Compare? A webinar for Coalition membership

December 10, 2014
Agency Webinar at Region 10 EPA Dr. Amy Snover, Climate Impacts Group Director, College of the Environment, University of Washington

Bulletin Archive

2014 - Issue 7

2013 - Issue 6

2013 - Issue 5

2012 - Issue 4

2012 - Issue 3

2012 - Issue 2

2011 - Issue 1


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