EPA grants $8.5M to four research institutions to study pathogens, disinfection byproducts in drinking water systems, improve water infrastructure management; institutions include University of Minnesota, Georgia Tech, University of Texas, Michigan State

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WASHINGTON , August 21, 2023 (press release) –

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced $8,492,000 in grant funding to four institutions for research on the occurrence and concentration of pathogens and disinfection by-products and the environmental conditions favorable to their growth in drinking water distribution systems.

“New strategies for monitoring and controlling contaminants in drinking water will help ensure that science underpins the protection of our health and our ecosystems,” said Chris Frey, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “The research funded today will provide key information for innovative scientific and technological solutions to improve current drinking water infrastructure.”

Opportunistic pathogens (OPs) such as Legionella, mycobacteria, and Pseudomonas can grow in drinking water systems and pose potential risks to public health. The occurrence of these and other microbial pathogens is also associated with contaminated storage facilities and other problems in water distribution systems such as backflow and low-pressure incidents. If left untreated, these contamination events can lead to outbreaks of gastrointestinal and other waterborne illnesses. The disinfectants used to control these pathogens can cause additional problems by reacting with natural organic matter, bromide, and other contaminants to form disinfectant by-products (DBPs), which also have the potential to be harmful to human health.

The research announced today will improve our understanding of how to control these contaminants and help inform water infrastructure management and risk-mitigation practices to ensure cleaner drinking water for all Americans.

The following institutions are receiving awards:

  • University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minn., to develop strategies for limiting exposure to OPs and DBPs and generate new data on OP and DBP occurrences in U.S. water distribution systems, including understudied small systems in rural Alaska that serve economically disadvantaged native populations.

  • Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich., to better understand and predict occurrences of DBPs, OPs, and their associated health risk tradeoffs. Project outcomes will support better evaluation, monitoring, and risk management strategies in drinking water distribution systems across the U.S.

  • University of Texas, Austin, Texas, to conduct a nationwide study of contaminants across a wide variety of drinking water distribution systems and help identify occurrence patterns of OPs and DBPs. Research will demonstrate how health risks are correlated with general water quality and distribution system factors to inform strategies that will reduce risks to people from drinking water.

  • Georgia Tech Research Corporation, Atlanta, Ga., to monitor the drinking water microbiome and manage pathogen and DBP risks in drinking water storage and distribution systems. The project will also assess pathogen and DBP impact on the availability of safe water to inform appropriate health risk interventions.

Learn more about the grantees.

Learn more about EPA research grants.

Contact Information

EPA Press Office (press@epa.gov)

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