The proposed project studies the fate and transport of Superfund-related organic contaminants and the processes controlling their mobility, persistence, distribution, and paths toward potential exposures and/or remediation zones in karst groundwater systems. The project's specific aims are directed at characterizing fate and transport processes and concentration distributions of contaminants in karst groundwater systems typified by variable conduit and/or diffusion dominated flow, as those found in northern Puerto Rico. This region is the focal area of PROTECT's work to study exposure to Superfund hazardous chemicals and their potential contribution to high rates of preterm birth in Puerto Rico, which are the highest among U.S. jurisdictions, second second only to Malawi globally. The project focuses on chlorinated volatile organic compounds (CVOCs) and phthalates as model contaminants because they are ubiquitous and have been shown to have potential health impacts. The research will build on the physical, data, and collaborative research infrastructure developed by the investigators during the first three years of the project. Karst groundwater systems, which provide over 40% of the groundwater used for drinking in the U.S., develop in soluble rocks, such as limestone and dolomites. Flow in these systems may occur through fractures, conduits, and the rock matrix. In such systems, conduits can concentrate water and contaminants from direct sources and/or diffuse flow and convey them rapidly to potential-exposure discharge points such as springs. They can also convey contaminants to """"""""trapping"""""""" diffuse-flow zones, which can result in long-term storage and subsequent release of contaminants. Developing the ability to assess and predict contaminant transport and potential exposure to contaminants in these type of aquifers is essential to understanding and preventing health effects stemming from contaminants in the groundwater. This project will characterize and quantify the factors affecting fate and transport of contaminants in karst systems. Using experimental data and field measurements, spatiotemporal contaminant distributions and transport properties will be characterized, quantified and statistically modeled. Fundamental knowledge developed from hydraulic and transport experiments in laboratory-scale models will be integrated into field- scale measurements and tracer tests through the use of geostatistical methods. At the field scale, contaminant concentrations in groundwater wells and springs in the karst system of northern Puerto Rico will be measured during wet and dry seasons. Field-scale models will be populated with historical contamination, water quality, and hydrogeologic data from the karst groundwater of northern Puerto Rico, and used to describe spatial and temporal changes in contaminant distribution, providing the ability to predict potential dynamic exposure to contaminants in karst groundwater systems and establish strategies to protect public health.

Public Health Relevance

This project will generate new fundamental knowledge and develop technologies to assess the processes affecting the fate, transport, and distribution of contaminants in karst systems. The new knowledge and technologies are applied at the field and population level to assess potential contaminant exposure, establish relationships between contamination and adverse public health outcomes, with a focus in preterm birth, and develop strategies to reduce harmful effects on environmental exposures of hazardous substances on human health.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
Hazardous Substances Basic Research Grants Program (NIEHS) (P42)
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Northeastern University
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Ferguson, Kelly K; Colacino, Justin A; Lewis, Ryan C et al. (2017) Personal care product use among adults in NHANES: associations between urinary phthalate metabolites and phenols and use of mouthwash and sunscreen. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 27:326-332
Elkin, Elana R; O'Neill, Marie S (2017) Trends in Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) Exposure and Preterm Birth: Use of Smoking Bans and Direct ETS Exposure Assessments in Study Designs. Chem Res Toxicol 30:1376-1383
Ferguson, Kelly K; McElrath, Thomas F; Pace, Gerry G et al. (2017) Urinary Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Metabolite Associations with Biomarkers of Inflammation, Angiogenesis, and Oxidative Stress in Pregnant Women. Environ Sci Technol 51:4652-4660
Park, Hae-Ryung; Harris, Sean M; Boldenow, Erica et al. (2017) Group B Streptococcus Activates Transcriptomic Pathways Related to Premature Birth in Human Extraplacental Membranes In Vitro. Biol Reprod :
Ferguson, Kelly K; Meeker, John D; Cantonwine, David E et al. (2017) Environmental phenol associations with ultrasound and delivery measures of fetal growth. Environ Int 112:243-250
Shao, Gang; Agar, Jeffrey; Giese, Roger W (2017) Cold-induced aqueous acetonitrile phase separation: A salt-free way to begin quick, easy, cheap, effective, rugged, safe. J Chromatogr A 1506:128-133
Wang, Poguang; Giese, Roger W (2017) Recommendations for quantitative analysis of small molecules by matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization mass spectrometry. J Chromatogr A 1486:35-41
Ferguson, Kelly K; Chen, Yin-Hsiu; VanderWeele, Tyler J et al. (2017) Mediation of the Relationship between Maternal Phthalate Exposure and Preterm Birth by Oxidative Stress with Repeated Measurements across Pregnancy. Environ Health Perspect 125:488-494
Aung, Max T; Johns, Lauren E; Ferguson, Kelly K et al. (2017) Thyroid hormone parameters during pregnancy in relation to urinary bisphenol A concentrations: A repeated measures study. Environ Int 104:33-40
Yuan, Ye; Meeker, John D; Ferguson, Kelly K (2017) Serum polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) concentrations in relation to biomarkers of oxidative stress and inflammation: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003-2004. Sci Total Environ 575:400-405

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