Grant-Funded Research Determines 15% of Homes in Lebanon, CT, Have Excessive Levels of Arsenic in Drinking Water

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In the summer of 2014, Dr. Meredith Metcalf and her undergraduate student research assistant Laura Markley collected water samples in Lebanon, CT. The research determined that 15% of homes in Lebanon have arsenic in their drinking water, and that 7% of the homes tested had arsenic levels exceeding the EPA drinking water standard. Dr. Metcalf is a professor of Environmental Earth Science at Eastern Connecticut State University (ECSU) and a hydrogeologist studying groundwater transport and water quality in rocks.

Dr. Metcalf’s research was made possible by a competitive CSU-AAUP/BOR research grant. “This research has resulted in many presentations for many professional organizations over the past year and a half by myself and Laura,” said Dr. Metcalf. “The results of the study led to additional research funds for the 2015–2016 academic year to continue our work.”

Dr. Metcalf expected to find arsenic in some drinking water, as Lebanon Elementary School tested positive in 2013; however, she was surprised at just how much arsenic was in the water. “When we saw some high values in 2014, Laura was incredibly concerned and that really bothered her from a public health perspective. Tap water is something we think is always clean, and we don’t know it can be bad for us,” said Dr. Metcalf. Results were presented to town residents in March 2015, which sparked additional testing by residents.

This past summer, Dr. Metcalf teamed up with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to further determine the extent of the problem. “With assistance from additional CSU-AAUP/BOR funds granted this year and funds provided from Eastern and the Environmental Earth Science Department and, most importantly, funds provided by State agencies to analyze groundwater samples, we have collected more data and we are currently analyzing this information,” she said. “Had I not been funded, this work would never have been initiated or I would have had to do the work with no compensation.”

“By providing an environment where faculty employment is stable and protected, the CSCU system will be able to retain its best faculty and attract top candidates,” said Dr. William Lugo, Chair of the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work at ECSU. “This will also allow the system to continue to attract Connecticut’s brightest students. The citizens of Connecticut expect their public universities to not only be affordable, but also of excellent quality.”

“A large portion of the CSU faculty rely on travel funding to stay current in their field, conduct research, and present it for feedback from researchers all over the world,” Dr. Lugo said. “These monies are standard practice at almost all higher education institutions in the country. They offer substantial return on investments for the university, and it would be difficult to imagine a university not offering them.”

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