Grant of $4.1 million to allow research into different options.

By Christina Yacono

(Collegian file photo)
(Collegian file photo)

David Reckhow, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Massachusetts, and fellow colleagues in the department received a $4.1 million grant to research and create innovative and more effective alternatives for small water system treatment.

“We are going to be working on drinking water technologies that are aimed at helping small drinking water systems across the country with trace contaminants like pharmaceuticals, removing nitrogen, controlling organic matter and controlling pathogens,” Reckhow said.

Reckhow and his colleagues’ work will focus on small water systems, which are defined as water systems that serve less than 10,000 people. About 94 percent of American public water systems serve less than 3,300 people.

Small water systems are more likely to have problems, including lack of financial resources to keep up to date with current EPA standards, numerous pollutants in the water or lack of staff needed to keep the system up to date.

In order to alleviate this, Reckhow and his colleagues plan to create a Water Innovation Network for Small Sustainable Systems on the UMass campus. This center will be used to test different water systems and technologies, so it can eventually be applied to water systems nationwide.

Not only did Reckhow and his team work with professors at the University, but they are also working with officials from neighboring towns and researchers from schools such as University of Texas Austin and the University of Florida. One idea currently under research is the use of ferrate as an alternative to chlorine for water disinfection.

Officials from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chose UMass as one of the two locations in the nation to work on creating a more effective water system. The University of Colorado Boulder also received a grant to build a center of its own.

The grant was presented to UMass in a reception which included officials including Ramona Trovato, from the EPA’s Office of Research and Development in Washington, D.C.; Curt Spalding, the EPA’s New England administrator; Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy, Maeve Bartlett, state secretary of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs; Henry Thomas III, chairman of the UMass Board of Trustees and Gov. Deval Patrick.

Patrick also announced a state grant for $1.5 million for the Commonwealth, saying, “is going to make a difference for our generation,” because water technology sector projecting to go up 11 percent in the next five years.

Christina Yacono can be reached at [email protected]