Another of Driver’s goals is to learn from wastewater research what other kinds of technologies could be adapted or developed to provide environmental engineers with more accurate data relevant to their work.

“We’re looking for things that are easier to deploy and that provide the data and information we need more accurately and faster,” Driver says. “We need to make sure that all the various sampling and testing processes we use are giving us accurate pictures of the things we need to know.”

Removing threats to community well-being

Conroy-Ben, who teaches soil and groundwater remediation, and contaminant fate and transport, among other related courses, concentrates her research efforts on water pollution and its biological effects.

“I’ve been studying wastewater for over 20 years, mainly focused on pollutant removal through various wastewater treatment processes,” Conroy-Ben says. “I look at the efficiency of removal of pollutants in wastewater treatment plants, including the removal of organic pollutants, endocrine disrupting chemicals, microbes, such as bacteria and viruses, and antibiotic resistant genes.”

With support from the National Institutes of Health, Conroy-Ben and collaborators Halden and Driver are bringing the scientific advances resulting from work in Halden’s lab in wastewater epidemiology to Native American tribal communities.

“Each tribe is different in various ways. So I think what we learn from working with the tribes will lead to valuable insights into how to conduct health research in these diverse communities,” Conroy-Ben says. “I see a lot of progress being made as the tribes and other communities understand how discovering early signs of diseases and other health problems in wastewater can protect people’s lives by reducing harmful exposures.”

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering