This Week in EPA Science

By Kacey Fitzpatrick

Research Recap graphic identifierWas your team already knocked out of March Madness? Then you must have plenty of time to catch up on the latest in EPA science. And if they’re still in it, there’s always halftime!

Women’s History Month
March is Women’s History month and this year’s theme is “Working to Form a More Perfect Union: Honoring Women in Public Service and Government.” Here at EPA, there are quite a few women scientists and engineers who truly are helping us achieve a more perfect union. We asked some of them to share a few words about what inspired them to pursue a career in science. Read what they said in the blog Women’s History Month: Honoring EPA Women in Science.

Water Reuse and Conservation Research
In honor of World Water Day this week, the White House held a water summit to raise awareness about water issues and potential solutions in the US, and to catalyze ideas and actions to help build a sustainable and secure water future through innovative science and technology. In conjunction with the summit, EPA announced $3.3 million in funding to support water reuse and conservation research. “The research announced today will help us manage and make efficient use of the water supply in the long term,” said Thomas A. Burke, EPA Science Advisor and Deputy Assistant Administrator for our Office of Research and Development. Read more about the grants in this press release.

EPA’s Student Competition Lights the Way
A former team that competed in EPA’s People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) student design competition was just named one of the most innovative companies of 2016 by Fast Company Magazine. The P3 team from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was initially funded in 2006 with a $10,000 grant. The student lead, Patrick Walsh, leveraged that funding, research, and experience to ultimately form the company Greenlight Planet. Patrick Walsh was also named to the 30 under 30 list by Forbes Magazine in 2012. Read more about EPA’s P3 student design competition.

Homeland Security Research
EPA’s Gregory Sayles recently wrote about a homeland security research demonstration. Along with the Department of Homeland Security, EPA researchers demonstrated a toolbox of options to mitigate and decontaminate urban, wide-area radiological contamination stemming from an event such as a dirty bomb detonation or nuclear power plant accident. Read more about the event in the article EPA and DHA Partner in Radiation Decontamination Event.

About the Author: Kacey Fitzpatrick is a student contractor and writer working with the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

From Oberlin to Oakland: The Advance of Lucid and BuildingOS

By Christina Burchette

How do you change the way people use energy? You turn them into active participants in their energy consumption by giving them tools to monitor their use. That is the goal of the Oakland-based company Lucid—to change our habits by making us aware of how much energy we use. So far, it’s been extremely successful.

The company got its start as a competing team from Oberlin College in EPA’s People, Prosperity, and the Planet (P3) grant competition. In 2005, the team won a P3 grant for their prototype: the Building Dashboard. This online tool tracks in real-time how much energy and water is being used in a building and provides visual insights that can influence occupants to change their habits.

After winning the P3 award, Lucid’s dashboard tool has been used in energy-saving competitions nationwide. In one ongoing competition, the Campus Conservation Nationals, participating students compete to reduce energy consumption in their residence halls over a three-week period. In the most recent competition, a little over 300,000 students and staff at 125 schools saved 1.9 million kilowatt-hours of energy by using Lucid’s product to track their usage. That’s equivalent to 2.4 million pounds of CO2 and $180,000 in savings!

Two Lucid employees using the product

Lucid’s platform prepares simple data visualizations to clearly show how much energy the user consumes.

Today, Lucid’s “BuildingOS” platform allows users to collect and access real-time data from all of their meters (like electricity, water, etc.) to help them monitor energy and water consumption and provides other building management tools. The platform is easy to use and prepares aesthetically-pleasing data visualizations to clearly show how much energy the user consumes.

Lucid is a perfect example of how small business and environmental concerns can come together and create innovative tools that change the way we think about resource consumption. We are proud to have supported them back when their business was just an idea, and that’s why we are so excited that they will be receiving a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract this month to continue developing their technology.

About the Author: Christina Burchette is a student contractor and writer for the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Local Water Woes, No More? Advancing Safe Drinking Water Technology

By Ryann A. Williams

P3 Team shows their water filter

The SimpleWater company got their start as an EPA P3 team.

As a child growing up in Washington, D.C. I remember hearing adults talk about their concerns about the local tap water. Overheard conversations about lead content and murkiness in the water certainly got my attention. As an adult who now works at the Environmental Protection Agency, I know things have greatly improved.

Today, DC tap water is among the least of my concerns. I drink it every day. Frequent testing to confirm its safety and public awareness campaigns by DC Water (the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority) have put my own worries to rest. But in other parts of the world and even in some areas of the U.S., people still have a reason to worry about their drinking water: arsenic.

Globally, millions of people are exposed to arsenic via drinking water and can suffer serious adverse health effects from prolonged exposure.

This is especially true in Bangladesh where it is considered a public health emergency. Other countries where drinking water can contain unsafe levels of arsenic include Argentina, Chile, Mexico, China, Hungary, Cambodia, Vietnam, and West Bengal (India). In addition, parts of the U.S. served by private wells or small drinking water systems also face risks due to arsenic in their drinking water.

Remedies are expensive and both energy- and chemical-intensive.

In 2007, a student team from the University of California, Berkeley won an EPA People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) award for their research project aiming to help change that.

Explaining the arsenic removal project.

Explaining the arsenic removal project.

The students set out to test a cost-effective, self-cleaning, and sustainable arsenic-removal technology that employs a simple electric current. The current charges iron particles that attract and hold on to arsenic, and are then removed by filter or settle out of the water.

By the end of their P3 funding in 2010, promising results had allowed the team to extend their field testing to Cambodia and India, and move forward with the licensing and marketing of their product to interested companies in Bangladesh and India.

Today, the same group of former Berkeley students who formed the P3 team now own a company called SimpleWater.

SimpleWater is among 21 companies that recently received a Phase One contract from EPA’s Small Business Innovation Research Program.

SimpleWater aims to commercialize their product and bring their track record of success in Bangladesh and India to help Americans who may be at risk from arsenic exposure in their drinking water. In particular they’re focusing on those who live in arsenic-prone areas and whose drinking water is served by private wells or small community water systems that test positive for elevated arsenic levels. (Learn more about Arsenic in Drinking Water and what to do if you think testing is needed for your water.)

Thanks to EPA support, SimpleWater is working to reduce the threat of arsenic in small drinking water systems and private wells. With their help, millions of people may soon feel safer about their drinking water, and like me, have one less big thing to worry about.

About the Author: Ryann Williams is a student services contractor with the communications team at EPA’s National Center for Environmental Research. When she’s not working with the team, she enjoys other team activities like soccer and football.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.