Using bacteria to protect groundwater

The Challenge:

Although regulations and practices are intended to prevent industrial accidents, groundwater supplies are still susceptible to contamination by industrial activities. This precious resource makes up 31 per cent of the world’s freshwater supplies. Ania Ulrich is investigating ways that bacteria can be used to remove contaminants from groundwater.

The Approach:

Some micro-organisms have use harmful man-made chemicals as food sources. Ulrich is able to identify contaminants and micro-organisms in groundwater to determine whether bacteria are helping to decontaminate the groundwater. Using sensitive medical research equipment, Ulrich is able to gain information about the bacteria’s physical health in the presence of contaminants.

Impact:

Groundwater provides drinking water to 9 million Canadians, or 30 per cent of the total population. Health problems related to water pollution are estimated to cost Canadians $300 million per year. The general health of Canadians as well as the future industrial development may depend on our ability to control and reduce the impact of human activity on freshwater sources.

Ania Ulrich

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering