Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health Research Works

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    Antibiotic Concentrations Decrease during Wastewater Treatment but Persist at Low Levels in Reclaimed Water
    (MDPI, 2017-06-21) Kulkarni, Prachi; Olson, Nathan D.; Raspanti, Greg A.; Rosenberg Goldstein, Rachel E.; Gibbs, Shawn G.; Sapkota, Amir; Sapkota, Amy R.
    Reclaimed water has emerged as a potential irrigation solution to freshwater shortages. However, limited data exist on the persistence of antibiotics in reclaimed water used for irrigation. Therefore, we examined the fate of nine commonly-used antibiotics (ampicillin, azithromycin, ciprofloxacin, linezolid, oxacillin, oxolinic acid, penicillin G, pipemidic acid, and tetracycline) in differentially treated wastewater and reclaimed water from two U.S. regions. We collected 72 samples from two Mid-Atlantic and two Midwest treatment plants, as well as one Mid-Atlantic spray irrigation site. Antibiotic concentrations were measured using liquid-chromatography- tandem mass spectrometry. Data were analyzed using Mann-Whitney-Wilcoxon tests and Kruskal Wallis tests. Overall, antibiotic concentrations in effluent samples were lower than that of influent samples. Mid-Atlantic plants had similar influent but lower effluent antibiotic concentrations compared to Midwest plants. Azithromycin was detected at the highest concentrations (of all antibiotics) in influent and effluent samples from both regions. For most antibiotics, transport from the treatment plant to the irrigation site resulted in no changes in antibiotic concentrations, and UV treatment at the irrigation site had no effect on antibiotic concentrations in reclaimed water. Our findings show that low-level antibiotic concentrations persist in reclaimed water used for irrigation; however, the public health implications are unclear at this time.
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    Prevalence of Microbiological and Chemical Contaminants in Private Drinking Water Wells in Maryland, USA
    (MDPI, 2018-08-07) Murray, Rianna T.; Rosenberg Goldstein, Rachel E.; Maring, Elisabeth F.; Pee, Daphne G.; Aspinwall, Karen; Wilson, Sacoby M.; Sapkota, Amy R.
    Although many U.S. homes rely on private wells, few studies have investigated the quality of these water sources. This cross-sectional study evaluated private well water quality in Maryland, and explored possible environmental sources that could impact water quality. Well water samples (n = 118) were collected in four Maryland counties and were analyzed for microbiological and chemical contaminants. Data from the U.S. Census of Agriculture were used to evaluate associations between the presence of animal feeding operations and well water quality at the zip code level using logistic regression. Overall, 43.2% of tested wells did not meet at least one federal health-based drinking water standard. Total coliforms, fecal coliforms, enterococci, and Escherichia coli were detected in 25.4%, 15.3%, 5.1%, and 3.4% of tested wells, respectively. Approximately 26%, 3.4%, and <1% of wells did not meet standards for pH, nitrate-N, and total dissolved solids, respectively. There were no statistically significant associations between the presence of cattle, dairy, broiler, turkey, or aquaculture operations and the detection of fecal indicator bacteria in tested wells. In conclusion, nearly half of tested wells did not meet federal health-based drinking water standards, and additional research is needed to evaluate factors that impact well water quality. However, homeowner education on well water testing and well maintenance could be important for public health.
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    Methods for Evaluating the Combined Effects of Chemical and Nonchemical Exposures for Cumulative Environmental Health Risk Assessment
    (MDPI, 2018-12-10) Payne-Sturges, Devon C.; Scammell, Madeleine K.; Levy, Jonathan I.; Cory-Slechta, Deborah A.; Symanski, Elaine; Carr Shmool, Jessie L.; Laumbach, Robert; Linder, Stephen; Clougherty, Jane E.
    Cumulative risk assessment (CRA) has been proposed as a means of evaluating possible additive and synergistic effects of multiple chemical, physical and social stressors on human health, with the goal of informing policy and decision-making, and protecting public health. Routine application of CRA to environmental regulatory and policy decision making, however, has been limited due to a perceived lack of appropriate quantitative approaches for assessing combined effects of chemical and nonchemical exposures. Seven research projects, which represented a variety of disciplines, including population health science, laboratory science, social sciences, geography, statistics and mathematics, were funded by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help address this knowledge gap. We synthesize key insights from these unique studies to determine the implications for CRA practice and priorities for further research. Our analyses of these seven projects demonstrate that the necessary analytical methods to support CRA are available but are ultimately context-dependent. These projects collectively provided advancements for CRA in the areas of community engagement, characterization of exposures to nonchemical stressors, and assessment of health effects associated with joint exposures to chemical and psychosocial stressors.
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    Rapid Health Impact Assessment of a Proposed Poultry Processing Plant in Millsboro, Delaware
    (MDPI, 2019-09-16) Baskin-Graves, Leah; Mullen, Haley; Aber, Aaron; Sinisterra, Jair; Ayub, Kamran; Amaya-Fuentes, Roxana; Wilson, Sacoby
    In 2013, Allen Harim Foods purchased the former site of a Vlasic Pickle plant in Millsboro, Delaware, and proposed to convert the site into a poultry processing plant that would process approximately two million birds weekly. This generated concerns about the proposed plant’s potential to impact health and quality of life among residents. We conducted a rapid health impact assessment (HIA) of the proposed plant to assess baseline environmental health issues in the host community and projected impacts. The scoping and baseline assessment revealed social, economic, and health disparities in the region. We also determined that residents in the area were already underserved and overburdened with pollution from multiple environmental hazards near the proposed plant including two sites contaminated with hazardous wastes, a power plant, and another poultry processing plant. The projected size and amount of poultry to be processed at the plant would likely cause increased levels of air, soil and water pollution, additional odor issues, and increased traffic and related pollution and safety issues. The information generated from the HIA formed the basis of a campaign to raise awareness about potential problems associated with the new facility and to foster more engagement of impacted residents in local decision-making about the proposed plant. In the end, the HIA helped concerned residents oppose the new poultry processing plant. This case study provides an example of how HIAs can be used as a tool to educate residents, raise awareness about environmental justice issues, and enhance meaningful engagement in local environmental decision-making processes.
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    Experiential Graduate Course Prepares Transdisciplinary Future Leaders to Innovate at the Food-Energy-Water Nexus
    (MDPI, 2021-01-29) Murray, Rianna Teresa; Marbach-Ad, Gili; McKee, Kelsey; Sapkota, Amy Rebecca
    Food, energy and water (FEW) systems are critically stressed worldwide. These challenges require transformative science, engineering and policy solutions. However, cross-cutting solutions can only arise through transdisciplinary training of our future science and policy leaders. The University of Maryland Global STEWARDS National Science Foundation Research Traineeship seeks to meet these needs. This study assessed a foundational component of the program: a novel, experiential course focused on transdisciplinary training and communication skills. We drew on data from the first two offerings of the course and utilized a mixed-method, multi-informant evaluation that included validated pre–post surveys, individual interviews and focus groups. Paired Mann–Whitney–Wilcoxon tests were used to compare pre- and post-means. After the course, students reported improvements in their ability to identify strengths and weaknesses of multiple FEW nexus disciplines; articulate interplays between FEW systems at multiple scales; explain to peers the most important aspects of their research; and collaborate with scientists outside their field. Students also reported improvements in their oral and written communication skills, along with their ability to critically review others’ work. Our findings demonstrate that this graduate course can serve as an effective model to develop transdisciplinary researchers and communicators through cutting edge, experiential curricular approaches.