Agency Seminar Series | UW-SRP Profile | Community Partners | Collaborations
The Superfund Research Program supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences celebrated it's 25th anniversary last month at a meeting in Raleigh, North Carolina. The UW Superfund Program is only 1 of 3 grants that has been active the entire 25 years (1987-2012). In this edition, our 'Investigator Profiles' features some of our UW-SRP history and links you to the 25th Anniversary Commemorative booklet with highlights of the NIEHS Superfund Research Program.
The e*Bulletin offers snapshots of our program's recent activities and links to events. Our Principal Investigator, Dr. Harvey Checkoway, and Research Translation and Outreach Core Director, Dr. Tom Burbacher, invite you to read and enjoy the stories that catch your eye.
Agency Seminar Series - Dr. Joel Baker
Professor Joel Baker is the Port of Tacoma Chair in Environmental Science at the University of Washington-Tacoma. In addition, Dr. Baker is director of the Puget Sound Institute, which is a product of a coordinated effort between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Puget Sound Partnership and the University of Washington. The intention of the Institute is to bridge the gap between the scientific community and those charged with the restoration and protection of the Puget Sound.
Dr. Baker was the invited speaker of the UW-SRP Agency Seminar at EPA Region 10 this fall on October 4th. His seminar focused on how recent advances in technology can provide useful information in developing models of contaminant behavior in complex aquatic ecosystems. Scientific models that address this complexity are necessary to be truly effective in the protection of aquatic systems. In this golden age of global interconnectedness we may now be able to connect our water quality models with real-time observations.
Dr. Baker spoke about the importance of communicating effectively with peers and stakeholders through the stories we tell about our work. As scientists it is essential that we be attentive and critically observant of our systems’ models. However, it may not be necessary that everyone attain a complete grasp of a given model; it is the application of the research that must be effectively communicated to agencies, communities, legislators and other interested groups.
Dr. Baker’s seminar reached a national audience via EPA’s CLU-IN, the audio file and accompanying slides are archived here. The UW-SRP website hosts the presentation video-file and slides.
The UW-SRP sponsors regular seminars held in Seattle at the regional EPA headquarters. These 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. The series provides a forum for intra-agency discussions with scientists about current research and applications of the science.
UW-SRP Investigator Profiles: Highlights from the first 25 years
In 1987, University of Washington (UW) scientists were among the original grantees of the new interdisciplinary Superfund Research Program (SRP) funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). The federal program is designed to build collaborations between scientific disciplines and promote partnerships with agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as with other stakeholders who are invested in issues surrounding waste site remediation and environmental health concerns. The UW-SRP is one of three universities in the country to celebrate a quarter century of ongoing research (UC Berkeley SRP and UC Davis SRP are the others).
The following studies are included in an NIEHS downloadable commemorative booklet - Superfund Research Program Celebrating 25 Years
1988 Milton Gordon and colleague Lee Newman were pioneers in developing and implementing phytoremediation techniques using hybrids and fast-growing plants for remediation of soil and groundwater contaminated with organic and inorganic pollutants including TCE.
1995 Mike Hooper began exploring wildlife biomarker applications to remediation decision-making. With an interest in DDT and DDE, Dr. Hooper and colleagues developed wildlife biomarkers to establish health-based exposure and effects assessments for certain birds and mammals.
2005 Clement Furlong’s SRP research has improved our understanding of how individuals may vary in their metabolism of organophosphate pesticides. EPA and other agencies have used the work of this research group to inform certain regulatory decisions.
2011 Evan Gallagher’s research uses biomarkers of exposure to better understand neurotoxic chemical interference in olfactory mediated behaviors that are critical to salmon survival. Project findings can be used to identify problematic polluted sites and inform remediation methods.
Pictured above, left to right: Sheldon Murphy, 1987-1992; David Eaton, 1992- 2000; Harvey Checkoway, 2000 - present.
Community Partners - Beyond Toxics
Beyond Toxics in Eugene, Oregon has a long history of improving public health in their region. The organization’s founders shepherded the model “Community Toxics Right to Know” law in the city of Eugene in 1990 and later created Beyond Toxics with a goal to guarantee environmental protections and health for all communities and residents in Oregon.
Beyond Toxics proposed the “West Eugene Industrial Corridor Environmental Health Project” that was funded by the EPA’s Environmental Justice Small Grants program in 2010 and 2011. The project served low-income and Latino communities in West Eugene who are more likely to suffer from asthma than other communities and who face barriers to improving environmental health. They are especially vulnerable because of limited access to media, information and resources, lack of health care, language barriers and social isolation.
An important aspect of the project was to gather information about children’s respiratory disease and cross-reference this information with satellite data of ‘point sources’ of air pollution to determine relationships between air toxics and health. Prior to the beginning of this project, there was little evidence that supported community concerns about disproportionate exposures to air toxics in West Eugene. However, Beyond Toxics now provides an analysis and characterization of combined risks to human and environment health from multiple air pollution sources or stressors through establishing relationships between locations of industries, locations of schools, demographics, health risks and income. The project also focused on incorporating community voices in decision-making processes to help develop new pathways in which families, communities and the city can achieve specific objective pollution prevention and community health benefits within a reasonable time frame.
More details on project outcomes.
Beyond Toxics is an active member of the Northwest Toxic Communities Coalition.
Pictured above, left to right: Lisa Arkin, Executive Director; Alison Guzman, Projects and Outreach Manager
Collaborations - Community Meetings
The UW-SRP Research Translation Core (the Core) has been part of a collaborative partnership with EPA Region 10 and the Northwest Toxic Communities Coalition (NWTCC) since the fall of 2010.
The Northwest Regional Outdoor Air Workshop for Communities held in May 2012 was one of the outcomes of this three-way partnership. The NWTCC is addressing another common goal that EPA and communities involved in the hazardous waste cleanup process have identified. Currently, plans are being developed to broaden community access to important information shared at agency-sponsored public meetings. The public meeting agenda offers agency status updates on the cleanup, reports from businesses responsible for the contamination and is one of the key opportunities for community members to give comments and share important information with all invested parties. Historically, it has been challenging to maximize attendance from community members at these meetings, which are often held the evening.
Wendy Steffensen, the lead scientist for the North Sound Baykeeper team of RE Sources in Bellingham, Washington, along with other members of NWTCC have been conferring with the EPA Region 10 Community Engagement and Environmental Health Unit about the importance of taping these sessions and making them broadly available to the public via video downloads on the internet.
The NWTCC is working with the Core on the creation of a list of upcoming agency-sponsored public meetings that will serve as pilot tests for posted videos. The Core will provide a video camera and will assist in posting the videos on the NWTCC website or with local pubic access television programming. Easy and timely access to this information will increase the participation of an important primary stakeholder in waste site issues.