Texas Tech to Study Fireworks Perchlorate Contamination Impact on Water

fire works display over water

(Credit: Canva)

by | May 25, 2023

In a move to safeguard water resources and ensure clean drinking water, the EPA has awarded a nearly $2.5 million research grant to Texas Tech University to help study the behavior of perchlorate, a chemical commonly found in rocket propellants, explosives, flares, and fireworks, after fireworks events near water sources. This research is expected to provide valuable insights to states and utilities on how to protect drinking water from perchlorate contamination.

Enhancing Water Resource Protection

The EPA has long recognized the importance of preserving water resources and maintaining the integrity of drinking water sources. With this grant, Texas Tech will spearhead research efforts to address concerns related to the increased use of fireworks and the potential rise in perchlorate levels in ambient waters used as sources of drinking water.

Perchlorate contamination can pose health risks as it can disrupt the normal functioning of the thyroid gland when exposure surpasses certain levels.

Filling Knowledge Gaps

While previous research has shed some light on water contamination resulting from fireworks, significant gaps persist in understanding the magnitude and extent of perchlorate contamination before, during, and after fireworks are discharged in proximity to water sources. By assessing the relative impacts of perchlorate from fireworks on six water sources across the United States, including a groundwater source, the researchers at Texas Tech aim to bridge these knowledge gaps.

Integrated Approach

The project will adopt an integrated approach, combining field observations, laboratory studies, and advanced modeling techniques to comprehensively evaluate the behavior of perchlorate following fireworks events.

Texas Tech’s researchers will measure perchlorate levels at selected sites during July 4th events, as well as periodic firework displays at baseball stadiums located near two rivers. By conducting measurements before and after major fireworks events and during subsequent rain events, the team will assess perchlorate inputs due to runoff, infiltration, and direct deposition into water bodies.

Expanding Modeling Capabilities

To enhance the reach and impact of the study, the research team will integrate all chemical, physical, and biological observations from the six study sites into the soil and water assessment tool (SWAT). By expanding the capabilities of SWAT, a publicly available model, the researchers aim to improve its ability to assess the impact of perchlorate emissions resulting from fireworks.

This integration will provide valuable insights into the behavior of perchlorate after fireworks events, empowering states and utilities to make informed decisions regarding the need for mitigating exposure through water sources.

Nationwide Collaboration

As part of this groundbreaking research, Texas Tech University will collaborate with existing sampling networks, including the Clean Air Status and Trends Network (CASTNET) and the National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP). By leveraging these networks and conducting nationwide surveys of public water supply intakes before and after periods of fireworks, the project aims to capture a comprehensive picture of perchlorate contamination across the United States.

Conclusion

The EPA’s grant to Texas Tech for perchlorate contamination research marks a significant step toward safeguarding water resources and protecting public health. By conducting a thorough evaluation of the behavior of perchlorate after fireworks events near water sources, this study will equip states and utilities with vital data necessary for determining appropriate actions to minimize exposure through drinking water. Through collaboration, advanced modeling, and extensive field studies, Texas Tech is poised to contribute valuable insights that will support environmental stewardship and the preservation of clean water supplies across the nation.

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