The Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) announced that it will continue its focus on research and innovation through renewed partnerships with three world-class universities – Wayne State University, the University of Michigan and Michigan State University. Wayne State will conduct two research projects focused on drinking water monitoring and treatment.

The drinking water monitoring system enhancement project will enhance an existing water system that captures data on water quality from Lake Huron to Lake Erie. There are 15 utility systems, including GLWA, that draw source water from the 80-mile stretch of these connected waterways to serve people in various communities. The research, led by Carol Miller, Ph.D., director of Healthy Urban Waters and professor of civil and environmental engineering at Wayne State, will compile findings into one central database and the information will be broadly available to researchers and the public for both simple status checkups, as well as complex environmental analyses. The results will help better pinpoint where water quality may shift along the route and serve as an early-warning system. The enhancements being made via this research further leverage an investment being made by the state of Michigan that will provide updated equipment for monitoring.

The second project being led by the Healthy Urban Waters Initiative, allows Yongli Zhang, Ph.D., assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Wayne State, to focus on contaminants of emerging concern through the drinking water treatment process. The Environmental Protection Agency periodically publishes contaminants of emerging concern in drinking water due to occurrence data across the country. This project will evaluate for these contaminants as well as additional ones identified by the WSU monitoring. The research will access both the presence of these contaminants in regional drinking water as well as the efficacy of traditional treatment methods in the elimination of these pollutants. Tracie Baker, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmacology in Wayne State’s School of Medicine, includes zebrafish in the exposure studies to provide critical insights into transgenerational, environmentally induced disease. The research will be conducted in the pilot plant at the Water Works Park drinking water treatment plant — one of the field stations of the WSU Healthy Urban Waters group.

“The Authority is always seeking out partnerships that will help us pioneer solutions to optimize our operations,” said Sue McCormick, CEO, GLWA. “At our core, we are scientists and engineers, and the treatment and other processes that occur in our plants and piping systems depend heavily on complicated chemistry, microbiology and hydraulics. If there are ways to enhance our ability to deliver water of unquestionable quality and effective, efficient wastewater services through new technology or breakthrough research, we want to seize those opportunities.”

“Monitoring water quality is a major challenge due to the large numbers of chemicals that can make their way into our waters,” said Miller. “Our research with the GLWA will allow us to quickly identify and share water quality concerns and identify the most effective treatment technologies to target the wide range of chemicals that may be present.”