UC receives grant for water quality research 

Geology department to monitor Great Miami River aquifer with help from Duke Energy

By Bryn Dippold

Duke Energy awarded the Geology Department at the University of Cincinnati a $25,000 grant to buy and install a system which will monitor water quality in the Great Miami River, an area that affects the drinking water of 2.5 million residents.

The grant provides financial support in addition to grants from the Miami Conservancy District, the Geology Department and a matched $25,000 grant from the UC Office of Research. Targeted Compound Monitoring will provide the needed equipment.

UC professor Reza Soltanian gestured as he spoke about his research at Groundwater Observatory at Miami Whitewater Forest. UC/Joseph Fuqua II

UC assistant professor Reza Soltanian studies how rivers affect groundwater. Photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative + Brand

Reza Soltanian, assistant professor of geology, submitted the grant request and leads the research on the water quality in the Great Miami River.

“There are strong interactions between river water and groundwater, thus it is necessary to have the ability to measure river water quality if we want to monitor the entire system,” Soltanian says.

Clean water is a vital resource that is becoming increasingly scarce, he said.

This past August, an advisory was issued for part of the Great Miami River due to a Fairfield Wastewater Treatment Plan malfunction. The advisory warned that there could be elevated levels of bacteria, including the dangerous bacteria E. coli, in the water. The urgency to fix the problem was a top priority due to the Great Miami River being a natural home to bacteria.

According to Soltanian, the Great Miami River infiltrates into the ground, recharging the groundwater each year. The river water directly affects groundwater quality.

The Great Miami Buried Valley Aquifer System lies west of Cincinnati and runs past Elizabethtown before ending at the Ohio River near Lawrenceburg, Indiana. The aquifer is the sole source of drinking water for 2.5 million residents in the area. The monitoring technology will help to monitor the contaminant levels in this water in real-time and provide necessary data over a two-year period.

Data pylon at the Theis Environmental Monitoring and Modeling Site (TEMMS).

Data pylon at the Theis Environmental Monitoring and Modeling Site. Photo/Provided

TCM is a local start-up company that also supplies monitoring devices to the U.S. military. TCM provides a platform for the delivery of water monitoring technologies and is a spin-off company from the Institute for Development and Commercialization of Advanced Sensor Technologies. The institute is a collaboration between Miami University of Ohio and the University of Dayton. This specific project from the UC Foundation received a letter of support from Mike Ekberg, the Miami Conservancy District’s manager for water resource monitoring and analysis.

The project aligns not only with the interests of citizens in the Great Miami River area, but also with the research efforts at UC.

“Our efforts at Theis Environmental Monitoring and Modeling Site and the implementation of the monitoring system are in line with UC’s Next Lives Here initiative through its effect on the local community,” Soltanian says. “Water research is an important element in the UC academic portfolio. Our location and diverse streams of researchers allow an integrated approach to address long-term threats to water in our community.

"I want to express my appreciation to the UC Foundation, UC Office of Research and Sue Goldberg, assistant director of foundation relations, for their support in our securing funding for this important research," Soltanian says.

Duke Energy, which previously financially supported the construction of the monitoring station along the Great Miami River, awarded grants to 14 organizations in October along with the UC Foundation for a total of $170,000 in charitable giving.

Featured image at top: River at sunset. Credit/Pixabay

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