Student pair takes 1st place at annual Water Professional Conference

Sam Kessler, a CEE major and director of the water project for UofL’s Water Professionals Chapter, and Jason Ingram, a masters student in CEE and Sustainability, have been awarded first place at the 2019 Water Professionals Conference for a presentation of their joint research.

This ongoing study seeks to further develop methods for cumulative sampling of E.coli for surface water assessment and profiling, and make comparison to the current methods championed by the EPA relying on averages of grab samples.

Within this comparison, a novel cost-effective stream fecal profiling method was developed by using sediment bag sampling while analyzing the water column with the Aquagenx Compartment Bag Test (CBT). Initial results suggest that the CBT is generally employable in streams, up to a 1:20 dilution with values <2000 MPN. Thus, it may function as a low-cost grab sample in a grab-sample + sediment bag profiling strategy with membrane filtration used for sediment bag analysis.

The research formed new methods for sediment bag design using diatomaceous earth, where only limited literature is available on collecting cumulative samples of E.coli using sediments. The results from this study may also inform stream restoration efforts on Mill Creek in Southwest Louisville.

Jason will also be using collected data for his master’s thesis on how climate change effects can be studied on Mill Creek. This study was funded by Russ Barnette in the ENVIROME institute. Sam and Jason also worked with Dr. Tamara Sluss of the Sustainability department, Dr. Mark French and Dr. Nageshwar Bhaskar of the CEE department, Dr. Jim Gerstle of the ChE department and Karen Schaffer of the Salt River Watershed Watch; as well as Mr. Pete Cinotto at the KY/IN USGS Science Center and contacts with USDA-ARS.

As this new method is improved, they hope to show how E.coli populations can be identified properly in our Louisville waterways and what impact the changing climate and continued mistreatment will have. Sam has been invited to present the study at the AWWA ACE 2020 conference in Orlando.