Combatting Water Contamination from the Ground Up
Approximately 35 per cent of North Americans rely on groundwater to drink. If that water is contaminated, it poses a serious risk to human health. Because aquifers carry groundwater downstream to lakes and rivers, groundwater contamination also threatens surface water quality. As Canada Research Chair in Groundwater Remediation, Dr. David Blowes is developing new approaches to predicting, preventing, and remediating groundwater contamination.
Blowes and his research team are conducting field studies to develop detailed descriptions of mine sites where groundwater has been contaminated by dissolved metals and metalloids. They are also conducting laboratory studies to develop design parameters for building permeable reactive barrier (PRB) systems (underground barriers that intercept and react to contaminants in groundwater), as well as field studies to examine the effectiveness of PRB systems.
Although Blowes has had significant success in developing PRBs in the past, their long-term effectiveness is still unclear. For this reason, he and his team are also developing new analytical tools to evaluate the efficiency, effectiveness, and limitations of PRB technology. Blowes also uses computer models to simulate the release, transport, and attenuation of dissolved metals at mine sites as well as the performance of passive groundwater remediation systems.
By gaining a better understanding of groundwater contamination—and developing tools to prevent and deal with it when it does happen—Blowes hopes to better protect and restore groundwater quality in the future.