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Is our drinking water safe? Wastewater treatment issues


Water is the essence of life. All of us require clean and safe water. The water supply in the U.S is regarded as the safest. However, April Gu (Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Northeastern University) felt it was important to know how the pollutants level in water was monitored. Her study is aimed to identify the real and potential pollutants present in water and find ways for wastewater treatment at a cheaper rate. Gu and her team are funded by the National Science Foundation and the Water Environment Research Foundation.


Gu’s study is to find how the contaminant removal method can be improved and water made safe in Boston’s largest wastewater treatment facility that treats 370 million gallons of sewage water every day.


Polluted and untreated water may contain millions of germs and microorganisms. Pathogens like legionella, pseudomonas, cryptosporidium, norovirus, etc. thrive in water. Shigella itself causes more than 500,000 illnesses in the U.S annually. Hence, it is very important to have safe drinking water.


Gu wants to provide a scientific basis on which updated and accurate federal water regulations will be developed. She says, “Industrialisation has led to a dramatic increase in the number of potential toxins in our water supply, yet we do not have sufficient monitoring systems in place that can detect them. This sophisticated and reliable technique will help researchers evaluate and identify a greater number of potential contaminants, vastly improving our water assessment processes.”


Gu aims to find methods to note how bacteria thrive and how their genes are expressed when exposed to other contaminants, toxic compounds. That data would provide information about the chemicals in the water whose knowledge would help in the wastewater treatment process.


She is also trying to examine the impact of wastewater-derived organic nutrients on eutrophication which causes rapid growth of aquatic plants that result in the death of aquatic animals due to lack of oxygen. Gu feels eutrophication is the main reason for degraded water in the U.S.


If the drinking water is contaminated, it may lead to various diseases among all age groups like typhoid, cholera, Hepatitis (A and E), giardia, and many more fatal diseases. Hence, access to safe drinking water is very important.


Arpita Priyadarshinee