By Stephanie Malench, Reporter
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville was recently awarded a $100,000 environmental education grant to increase public awareness and knowledge about regulated pollutants, emerging pollutants and biological contamination in water.
The grant will assist SIUE in influencing the decisions St. Louis area industries, farmers and residents make to keep our water clean through two main project goals.
Grant money will help with student trainings, summit, and a community welcome event with interactive displays.
The first goal is “ensuring clean, safe water supplies, and [second] increasing transparency, public participation and community collaboration on these issues,” explained Educational Outreach Specialist Courtney Breckenridge.
Breckenridge said “students, teachers, and citizens will be provided with tools and solutions to reduce pollutants in the water supply, increase awareness of contamination risks and solutions, develop interest in environmental careers, and utilize community partnerships to increase public understanding of clean water issues.” This is critical because of Illinois unique geography and economy, with the Mississippi River serving as the western border for the state and the Great Lakes to the north and industry and farming as major water polluters.
“This project involves training undergraduate students to collect field water samples, and perform biological and chemical testing on them to assess water quality,” said Kevin Tucker, PhD, assistant professor in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Chemistry. Specifically, researchers will look for Legionella, medications, personal care products, heavy metals, and farm runoff such as nitrates.
Breckenridge further explained that this will be done with “a combination of applied research in sampling regional water supplies and disseminating that information through a combination of public geospatial databases and targeted presentations.”
According to Breckenridge, the student group From the Ground Up served as inspiration in applying for the grant. The group has raised public awareness “about the science and facts as they relate to food, water, energy, and climate.
Staff involved in the project include Tucker, Breckenridge, Robert Dixon, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry; Matthew Maas, director of the Environmental Resource Training Center at SIUE; and Connie Frey Spurlock, PhD, associate professor of sociology and director of the SIUE Successful Communities Collaborative.