Current Projects

New Projects from 2021


And Water for All. A Documentary on Water Access and Affordability in Ohio 

documentary interview

Across the nation, rates charged for drinking water, sewer management and stormwater services continue to increase, placing a heavy burden on families and communities who lack the financial capacity to face these costs. In Ohio, affordability in water and sewer bills continues to be a pressing issue.

Dr. Ramiro Berardo and his team are producing an educational documentary, titled And Water for All, that discusses the challenges in securing water access at affordable rates for Ohio’s residents. The documentary will reflect the views of a wide range of stakeholders, including urban and rural residents of Ohio, policymakers from the two major political parties, members of environmental NGOs, public utilities representatives and academics.

And Water for All aims to answer the question, what sort of measures should be taken to address the affordability crisis in the short and long term in order to secure sustained access to clean water for all of Ohio’s citizens? The documentary will be released on World Water Day in March 2022 and will be widely distributed for free on multiple online platforms.  


Dr. Berardo is an Associate Professor in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at Ohio State University. Read his profile here.


Quantifying the relationship between algal blooms and carbon budgets and quality in Lake Erie


Harmful algal blooms, a well-known concern in the western basin of Lake Erie, have unknown impacts on regional carbon budgets.

Dr. Rachel Gabor and Dr. Rachel Eveleth plan to quantify carbon transformation from inorganic to organic forms and investigate how the chemistry of these forms change due to an algal bloom by completing densely sampled transects from South Bass Island to the Maumee River pre, peak, and post algal bloom.

The results could have important implications for modeling regional carbon fluxes into and out of Lake Erie, understanding ecosystem functioning, and improving scientific understanding of what drives algal blooms and their toxicity. 


Principal investigator Dr. Gabor is an Assistant Professor in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at The Ohio State University. Read her profile here.

Dr. Eveleth is an Assistant Professor in the Geology Department at Oberlin College. Read her profile here.


Assessment of large woody debris as a low‐cost best management practice for improving water quality in urban headwater streams

Deploying tagged rocks in Cooper Creek for particle tracking.
Deploying tagged rocks in Cooper Creek for particle tracking. Each rock was uniquely tagged with a Passive Integrated Transponder tag that can be detected using a specialized reader. From left to right: Peter Grap (UC MS student), Steve Matter (Associate Professor at UC, project PI), Dylan Ward (Associate Professor at UC, collaborator). Photo Credit: Michael Booth


Water quality attainment status in Ohio is evaluated based on biotic community indices, and improving biotic indices may necessitate management approaches that reduce or mitigate multiple stressors simultaneously. Therefore, there is a need for cost-effective and scalable strategies to reduce erosive flows, prevent streambank erosion, and improve habitats to support the attainment of water quality criteria. 

Dr. Michael Booth, Dr. Stephen Matter, and Mr. Adam Lehman are investigating the effectiveness of large woody debris (LWD) structures as a low-cost means to improve water quality by reducing erosion and sediment/phosphorus loading from urban headwater streams. 

The project will provide data to inform management actions by local stormwater districts and complement other ongoing long‐term projects in the watershed such as mitigating a key water quality issue (sedimentation) in this watershed.


Principal investigator Dr. Booth is a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Cincinnati. Read his profile here.

Dr. Matter is an Associate Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Cincinnati. Read his profile here.

Mr. Lehman is the Stream Conservation Program Manager for the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District.  


The influence of surface water-groundwater exchange on fate and transport of emerging contaminants 

Theis Environmental Monitoring and Modeling Site (TEMMS)
Theis Environmental Monitoring and Modeling Site (TEMMS). Photo Credit: Reza Soltanian

1,4-dioxane is an organic compound that is easily transported in groundwater and becoming increasingly prevalent across the United States. Prolonged exposure to the contaminant can cause permanent damage to the central nervous system, liver, and kidneys.

Dr. Reza Soltanian, Dr. William H. Steinecker, Dr. Corey Wallace, and Dr. Drew McAvoy are investigating how groundwater and surface water exchange  hyporheic exchange  controls the fate and transport of emerging contaminants, including 1,4-dioxane, perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).

Through the research, numerical models of flow and reactive mass transport will be developed and validated, which will be used to further understand the controlling influence of hyporheic exchange on the fate and transport of emerging contaminants.


Principal investigator Dr. Soltanian is an Assistant Professor of Hydrogeology in the Department of Geology and Environmental Engineering at the University of Cincinnati. Learn more about his work here.

Dr. Steinecker is the Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Targeted Compound Monitoring.

Dr. Wallace is a National Science Foundation (NSF) Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Geology at the University of Cincinnati. Learn more about his work here.

Dr. McAvoy is a Professor and Educator in the Department of Environmental Engineering at the University of Cincinnati. Learn more about his work here.


Wireless Distributed Sensor Network for Monitoring Fixture Use in Premise Plumbing Systems 


Instantaneous peak water demand is an important consideration when designing the premise plumbing system for a new building, and an improved method of estimating peak indoor water demand has been created. However, the method requires a crucial piece of missing information: an estimate of the peak hour probability of fixture use, otherwise known as the “p-value.”

Dr. Tao Li and Dr. Steven G. Buchberger are developing and testing a low-cost, battery-powered, miniature wireless sensor module for non-invasive detection of flow through pipes in premise plumbing systems. Readings from the sensor network will be analyzed to estimate the peak hour p-values for various fixtures in the premise plumbing system.

This information will provide the basis to apply the new method for estimating peak indoor water demand in new buildings. 


Principal investigator Dr. Li is an Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Cincinnati. Read his profile here.

Dr. Buchberger is a Professor in the Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering and Construction Management at the University of Cincinnati. Read his profile here.


Tracing nitrate sources and processes with a combined isotope approach at Grand Lake St. Marys watershed, Ohio

Lake water sampling at Grand Lake at St. Marys (left: Maria Schutte (student), right: Dr. Z Bedaso (PI))
 Lake water sampling at Grand Lake at St. Marys (left: Maria Schutte (student), right: Dr. Z Bedaso (PI)). Photo Credit: Zelalem Bedaso

The Grand Lake St. Marys watershed is one of the most nutrient (nitrate) impacted lakes in Ohio. Even more, tracing and quantifying nitrate contaminant sources — such as organic and inorganic fertilizers, human wastes, and urban runoff  in streams and lakes as well as understanding nutrient dynamics can be complicated.

Dr. Zelalem Bedaso is using stable isotopes of nitrogen, oxygen, and boron to identify sources of nitrate contaminants in the aquatic system and to quantify relative contributions from multiple sources.

The research could provide a regional baseline for nitrate contaminant source tracing and foster further study to improve nutrient management decisions and public health policy related to nitrate sources in the Grand Lake St. Marys watershed.


Principal investigator Dr. Bedaso is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences at the University of Dayton. Read his profile here.


Quantifying water flow pathway redistribution under agricultural drainage

Research set up
Set up during electrical resistivity investigation at research site in Wooster, Ohio. Photo Credit: Kennedy Doro

Artificial tile drainage is used in much of Ohio and the Midwest to increase crop production on soils that are naturally poorly drained. However, tile outlets are channels for nutrient-rich water to enter local waterways contributing to anoxic conditions and, in extreme cases, harmful algal blooms (HAB).

Dr. Kennedy DoroDr. Steve Lyon, and Mr. Sam Miller plan to characterize the impact of subsurface tile drainage and drainage water management (DWM) on nutrient loading to freshwater systems. Understanding the total net impact agricultural drainage and DWM have on nutrient export via all flow pathways leaving farm fields will help characterize the hydrological responses and estimate nutrient loads.

Subsequent groundwater and tile outlet monitoring, combined with nutrient concentration sampling, will allow for improved management of nutrient loads at the watershed scale.


Principal investigator Dr. Doro is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences at the University of Toledo. Read his profile here.

Dr. Lyon is an Associate Professor in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at The Ohio State University. Read his profile here.

Mr. Miller is a Postdoctoral Scholar in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at The Ohio State University.


Cyanotoxin biodegradation: An in-plant solution to microcystins in water treatment residuals 


The toxins produced by cyanobacteria during harmful algal blooms (HAB) present a large and increasing problem in Ohio and the world. To protect public and environmental health, HAB cyanobacteria and their toxins must be managed comprehensively from drinking water treatment plant intakes (inputs) to residuals and finished water (outputs).

Dr. Natalie Hull is focusing on accurately analyzing and optimizing the biodegradation of microcystins in residuals to levels suitable for land application.

The results from the research will inform best practices for quantifying cyanotoxins in residuals and will inform utilities of a biodegradation strategy to manage HAB residuals sustainably to minimize risk to humans and the environment.


Dr. Hull is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geodetic Engineering at The Ohio State University. Read her profile here.


 

Continuing Projects from 2020


Electrochemical sensors for microbial activities in benthic sediments: a sentry for lacustrine P biogeochemistry 

sc-zra technique
 SC-ZRA setup with Old Woman Creek sediments. Photo Credit: John Senko

Harmful algal blooms (HABs) continue to threaten Ohio's water quality. One major factor fueling HABs is internal phosphorus loading — the release of phosphorus (generally as phosphate) from sediments on the water body’s floor — which remains difficult to track and manage.

Dr. John Senko and Dr. Chelsea Monty-Bromer are investigating how electrochemical sensors for microbial activities in benthic sediments could help track the release of phosphate from these sediments. The project uses an electrochemical split-chamber zero resistance ammetry (SC-ZRA) technique to determine the microbiological processes that induce or limit phosphate release from sediments.

The research results could help develop a sensor system positioned in lake sediments that could serve as an early warning system for HABs resulting from internal phosphate loading.


Principal Investigator Dr. John Senko is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geosciences and Biology at the University of Akron. Read his profile here.

Dr. Chelsea Monty-Bromer is an Associate Professor of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering at Cleveland State University. Read her profile here.


What role does nutrient cycling by zooplankton play in supporting HAB production in western Lake Erie? 

Lyndsie Collis collects zooplankton and water samples
Lyndsie Collis (student) taking Lake Erie water and zooplankton samples. Photo Credit: Lyndsie Collis

Generally, spring phosphorus-loading — the runoff of phosphorus into bodies of water from sources like fertilizer in fields during the rainy season — from the Maumee River strongly predicts the summer algal bloom extent in Lake Erie. However, it is not clear how the phosphorus is stored and cycled prior to and during bloom formation. 

Dr. Jim Hood is investigating whether nutrient excretion by zooplankton influences the concentration and ratio of dissolved nitrogen and phosphorus and, therefore, is an important component in maintaining phosphorus in Lake Erie between spring loading and summer cyanobacterial blooms. The project measurements will provide critical information about the controls on nutrient dynamics that influence the timing, severity, and toxicity of harmful algal blooms (HAB).

The research results could help improve the mechanistic understanding of the factors controlling nutrient availability and thus HABs in western Erie and will benefit lake and HAB forecast models. 


Principal investigator Dr. Hood is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology at The Ohio State University. Read his profile here.


Microorganisms and enzymes driving glyphosate degradation in Lake Erie 

Prochazka working
Carly Prochazka (student) working. Photo credit: Matthew Saxton

Glyphosate (GLYP) is the most widely applied herbicide in the world and is present in measurable concentrations in bodies of water. Since the glyphosate chemical structure includes phosphorus and nitrogen, the two most important nutrients in most freshwater ecosystems, the contribution of this chemical to eutrophication has been of increasing interest.

Dr. Matthew Saxton is exposing naturally occurring Lake Erie microbial communities to glyphosate and its primary breakdown product and using a metatranscriptomic approach to measure the expression of genes involved in the response to glyphosate exposure. The study will determine the microorganisms and degradation pathways responsible for the degradation of glyphosate and its breakdown products.

The research results could help resolve the pathways and chemical forms through which glyphosate is converted to nutrients that directly contribute to harmful algal bloom formation in Lake Erie.


Dr. Saxton is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Miami University. Read his profile here.


Efficient removal of emerging per- and poly-fluoroalkyl contaminants using electrically heatable carbon nanotube hollow fiber membrane distillation

Chae taking water sample
Water sampling of the Ohio River in Downtown Cincinnati. Photo Credit: Soryong Chae

Per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) are emerging contaminants in surface water, groundwater, wastewater, and landfill leachates. Due to the increasing difficulty in treating PFASs through conventional remediation and water treatment technologies, the ongoing, long-term cost of treating PFASs-impacted water is expected to be substantial. 

Dr. Soryong Chae is evaluating a new treatment system by removing emerging per- and poly-fluoroalkyl contaminants using electrically heatable carbon nanotube (CNT)-assisted membrane distillation. This system will make it possible to remove PFASs from water and wastewater using modest amounts of solar energy while also recovering water for recycling.

The research hopes to achieve energy-efficient recycling of wastewater while efficiently removing PFASs.


Dr. Chae is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Engineering and Science at the University of Cincinnati. Read his profile here.


 

Ohio WRC Projects Funded Externally


Microplastic removal during drinking water treatment
 

Dr. John Lenhart is testing cyanotoxin removal using activated carbon in order to provide guidance to utilities with HABs ensuring that treatment goals are met.

Dr. Lenhart is a Professor and the Associate Chair in the College of Engineering Department of Civil, Environmental and Geodetic Engineering. He is also the co-director of the Ohio Water Resources Center (WRC). Read his profile here.


Coordination and management of statewide and campus wastewater monitoring 

Filtration and extraction of wastewater sample

Dr. Zuzana Bohrerova and the Ohio WRC are collaborating with the Ohio Department of Health, Ohio EPA and U.S. EPA in a wastewater study to monitor trends and changes of COVID-19 in communities. 

Dr. Bohrerova is a Research Specialist in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geodetic Engineering. She is also the Associate Director of the Ohio Water Resources Center (WRC). Read her profile here.


Developing second design standards to enable the use of innovative technology in Ohio public water systems 

People gathered around a table

Dr. Linda Weavers and Dr. Zuzana Boherova are creating design standards for emerging drinking water treatment technologies that will allow communities in Ohio to install more appropriate and cost-effective technologies.

Dr. Weavers is a Professor at The Ohio State University in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geodetic Engineering. She is also the co-director of the Ohio Water Resources Center (WRC). Read her profile here.


Assessing ultrasound as a source water reservoir management strategy to control cyanobacteria blooms

Work by the water

Dr. Linda Weavers, Dr. Zuzana Boherova and Dr. Chin-Min Cheng are assessing ultrasound as a source water reservoir management strategy to control cyanobacterial blooms. 

Dr. Cheng is a Senior Research Associate Engineer in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geodetic Engineering at The Ohio State University. Read his profile here.