Hui Li Leads Team Awarded $2 Million EPA Grant to Study the Impact of Current Biosolid Treatment Methods

September 30, 2021

IIT-affiliated faculty member, Hui Li, is leading a team of researchers recently awarded a $2 million EPA grant to study the impact of current biosolid treatment methods used by wastewater treatment facilities on a variety of pollutants in soil, water and plants. Li will work alongside IIT-affiliated faculty members, Wei Zhang, an associate professor in the Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences, and Courtney Carignan, an assistant professor in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. The team will also include James Ippolito from Colorado State University, Qingguo Huang from the University of Georgia, and John Norton Jr. from the Great Lakes Water Authority.

With the new funding, the first step is for the team to survey current biosolid treatment processes for PFAS and PPCP concentration and leachability. Then, through field and laboratory experiments, Li and his team will look to fill knowledge gaps in the fate, transportation, occurrence and plant uptake of PFAS and PPCPs. This data collection will help in the development of models that quantify exposure risk to humans, which will be shared with communities and agencies responsible for biosolid treatment.

For agricultural purposes, some growers use biosolids as a soil amendment to provide plant nutrients and improve soil health, but there is mounting concern that they inadvertently introduce harmful chemicals such as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), and pharmaceuticals and personal-care products (PPCPs).

PFAS, in particular, has become a growing public concern in recent years as a threat to human health, resulting in an increased emphasis on research from both funding agencies and scientists. To that end, MSU has created the Center for PFAS Research, which brings together scientists from across the university to quantify and communicate PFAS risks while working to mitigate its impact.

Developing quantitative models for human exposure is the ultimate goal of the new project, followed by communication of the information via MSU Extension and other outreach initiatives.

Read more of this story by Cameron Rudolph that originally appeared on the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources website at: