The McCormick and Baxter Superfund Site is located on the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon and has PAH contaminated soils and sediments from historical creosote operations. As part of an Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) ten year study to assess the effectiveness of the sediment cap, passive sampling devices from Kim Anderson’s lab were deployed by U.S. EPA Region 10 divers in both sediment and water at the site. Included in this study was a newly designed passive sampling sediment probe which allowed for deployment in the rocky armoring of the sediment cap. Based on data from this study, the ODEQ reported that the sediment cap appears to be effective in meeting its remedial objectives. The full results of the study, used to inform ODEQ regulatory decision making, is available here (https://semspub.epa.gov/work/10/100031136.pdf), beginning on page 20.
Earlier this summer I conducted research at the USEPA Robert S. Kerr Research Laboratory in Ada, Oklahoma under the guidance of Dr. Eva L. Davis. This experience was made possible through the KC Donnelly Externship Award Supplement that I received in late April.
The main objective of my externship was to collaborate and learn from Dr. Davis, an expert in the field of thermal remediation of contaminated soils and groundwater. I focused on utilizing steam injections on a laboratory scale to thermally remediate creosote-contaminated Superfund soils.
Another goal of this externship was to understand the chemical processes that occur during and after remediation. I looked at measurements of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and their transformation to oxygenated PAHs (oxy- and hydroxy-PAHs) in soils, as well as their potential developmental toxicity and mutagenicity.
This partnership was a great fit, because it combined the expertise of Dr. Davis, involving thermal remediation of soil, with our expertise in soil analysis for PAHs and oxygenated PAHs, and toxicity assays in our SRP Project 3, directed by Dr. Robert L. Tanguay.
I have always considered a career path with the federal government. This experience allowed me to experience first-hand what it would be like. Preparing to work in a federal facility was probably, and surprisingly, one of the greatest initial challenges of the project. It included paperwork, security clearance procedures, and training, among many other things.
Having the opportunity to meet, collaborate, and have one-on-one conversations with Dr. Davis was a fulfilling experience, especially since she is a female scientist. I also met other scientists working in the same facility, but base their research here in the Willamette Valley. Other experiences included participating in their weekly seminars, where they present trending topics of importance to the environment and the USEPA, as well as their own research updates.
Outside of research, weather was a big challenge, especially since my externship began in the middle of tornado season. One afternoon I had to spend over a half hour in a closet while the sirens were blaring. My next visit will be before May, for sure!
The externship was definitely an incredible experience, and it provided me with better understanding of thermal remediation and new knowledge about soil and how chemicals behave underneath the surface. I encourage other SRP trainees to apply for the KC Donnelly Externship Award Supplement. You will not regret it, and the outcome will be very valuable for your current research and future work as well.
Networking and face-time with peers and scientists is an essential part of an Externship opportunity. At the conference, Mitra was able to interact and formalize her connections with other trainees from five different SRP centers across the country, including students whose work involved epidemiology, cell culture, fish, and mammalian model systems. She will be reporting back to the OSU SRP trainees at their monthly meeting about what she learned from the other trainees at the conference related to their Superfund Centers, their activities, and their interests.
Mitra was also able to attend sessions and interact with leading scientists. She attended sessions to learn about different methods for assessing neurotoxicity, including mechanistic and behavioral effects, especially in the context of how the different models can be used to approach similar questions. Mitra attended the sessions on neurotoxicants in air pollutants and inhaled particles, which are particularly relevant to her research. There was also sessions related to neurotoxicology screening studies and non-mammalian models of neurotoxicity including fish studies that were highly applicable to her screening work in zebrafish. The sessions on epigenetics and the microbiome were not directly related to her work, but she found them very useful in her long-term research interest development.
Mitra received her B.S. in Environmental Science from Western Washington University. Her current research is focused on defining the developmental toxicity of parent and methylated PAHs, the neurobehavioral effects of these compounds during the embryonic stage and in adulthood, and the molecular pathways involved in these effects using the embryonic zebrafish model.
Forty years ago, chemical pollution was the stuff that spewed from tailpipes, smokestacks, and sewers. Rivers burned, fish died, and forests withered under acid rain until Congress passed strict laws to curb the flood of manmade chemicals pouring into our waterways and atmosphere.
However, 40 years ago there was little consideration of the chemicals that we were pouring into our bodies. The chemicals we use to sanitize our hands, package our foods, and keep our beds from going up in flames have seeped into our bodies in ways that were unimaginable a generation ago. Today, we are marinating in antibacterials, hormone disruptors, and flame retardants.
Man-made and naturally occurring chemicals pervade modern life. Here are a few that have been linked to human health problems.
“There are more than 80,000 man-made chemicals in existence today, and an estimated 2,000 new chemicals are introduced each year,” said Craig Marcus, a toxicologist at Oregon State University. “We encounter thousands of them every day, in food, kitchenware, furniture, household cleaners, and personal care products. And very few of them have been adequately tested for safety.” Continue reading →
A field trip for 28 local 5th graders from Hoover Elementary School was held at the Sinnhuber Aquatic Research Laboratory (SARL) on May 12, 2014. SARL, directed by Dr. Robert Tanguay, is a large state- of- the -art zebrafish facility used greatly for OSU SRP Project 3 – Systems Approach to Define Toxicity of Complex PAH Mixtures.
The SARL personnel, along with SRP Trainees and other grad students and postdocs, wanted the students to get hands-on experience and enjoy science. Specifically the students learned all the unique features of zebrafish and how they are used in scientific research.
In 2012, curriculum was developed for visiting classes. Students break up into five groups and rotate through various stations.
1) Tour of the Land of Zebrafish / Zebrafish Life Stage: Learn about how small the fish are and how rapid they develop.
2) Glow in the Dark Zebrafish: Learn about the different tools used in research.
3) The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: Sort out dead and alive embryo, and determine the age of zebrafish.
4) Toxicity Screening: Learn how to get embryos into wells, view plates under the microscope, and identify normal and not normal fish.
5) Fish Are Like Us: Identify similarities between fish and humans.
The Superfund Research Program is federally funded and administered by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS grant #P42 ES016465), an institute of the National Institutes of Health.