It’s a nutrient, it’s a deicer, it’s polluting our environment.

Winter is over… Or at least according to the calendar. Yet, this morning I awoke to flurries in Cambridge, Massachusetts. These flurries turned into full-fledged snowfall by the time I got to work. Really? It’s April 2nd. The good thing is that hopefully the city will not see the need to salt the roads heavily because it should be warm enough to prevent ice patches from forming.

Read more

Wineries: don’t waste the wastewater

The recycling of wastewater at large-scale production facilities such as wineries is considered by some to be a sustainable and innovative response to the harsh climate and water shortages many areas are currently facing. However, the question of what impact this wastewater will have on both the facilities and the surrounding environment is still up for debate. Recent research has investigated the effect that irrigating vineyards with wastewater has on the crops, the soil, and the wine produced by several wineries in California.

Read more

Sweet Science: Artificial sweeteners can help track septic effluent

Some homes treat waste onsite using what is called a septic system. These systems release treated water (effluent) into the ground where it eventually combines with natural groundwater. Septic effluent is a concern because it could contaminate groundwater that is used as drinking water. As a result, researchers have been searching for ways to track septic effluent in groundwater. The scientists in this study examined whether artificial sweeteners could do the trick.

Read more

A Hazy Outlook over the North China Plain

Beijing, the cultural and political capital of China, is home to a massive population of almost 25 million people has long been known for its air pollution. A team of scientists at Peking University in Beijing looked at the chemistry of the city’s haze and found something surprising: the inorganic mass fraction, normally dependent on only human activities, increased with increasing relative humidity. That’s right: how bad anthropogenic emissions actually are depends on the weather. Exploring this trend will help us to understand how haze forms, which could help Beijing and other major cities to manage their air pollution problems more effectively.

Read more

Wastewater and wetlands: a friendship for the ages?

Today’s wastewater is not what it once was. Pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and other lifestyle products are contributing compounds to wastewater that have emerged as harmful contaminants in the environment. In order to combat these contaminants, which are not being effectively treated by conventional wastewater treatment plants, some places have incorporated constructed wetlands as an additional treatment method meant to eliminate emerging contaminants before they enter into the environment.

Read more

How hot is too hot for humans?

As my fellow Floridians know, the only way to survive a humid summer day is to find air conditioning, fast. Humidity makes us uncomfortable because we sweat in order to cool off, but this cooling is less efficient when it’s humid. Past a certain threshold of heat and humidity, our bodies can no longer cool off by sweating, and the results can be lethal. A recent study by Coffel et al. suggests that, by the end of the century, climate change may expose millions of people to life-threatening heat stress.

Read more