Hugo Neu Corporation Sustainability Seminar Series: Sustainable Remediation Technologies for Lead in Urban Soils

wind farm

Department of Civil, Environmental and Ocean Engineering

Speaker: Rupali Datta, Ph.D., Professor, Michigan Technological University


Lead contamination of residential soils in the United States is attributed to the use of lead-based paint before 1978 and its deterioration and accumulation in surface soils. Exposure to lead due to the ingestion and inhalation of lead-laden soil and dust causes neurological disorders, renal disorders, and developmental and behavioral problems, particularly in children under the age of six. We are working on developing sustainable and inexpensive technologies that are easy to implement in residential settings. A novel phytotechnology for residential soils was tested through lab incubation, greenhouse, and simulated field studies. We found that vetiver grass (Chrysopogon zizanioides L.) in combination with a biodegradable chelating agent, ethylenediaminedisuccinic acid (EDDS) is a suitable choice for lead remediation. Field implementation was carried out in homes in Jersey City, NJ, and San Antonio, TX. Another sustainable and inexpensive technology we are working on is the use of biochar to immobilize lead in residential soil from Baltimore, MD; San Antonio, TX and Detroit, MI. In addition to their lead retention properties, biochar also retains several other metal and organic contaminants in soil. Laboratory incubation studies are in progress to understand the best-performing biochar for soil lead retention based on soil properties.


Headshot of Rupali Datta

Dr. Rupali Datta is a Professor of Biological Sciences at Michigan Technological University (MTU) located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. She has a Ph.D. in Life Sciences from the University of Hyderabad, India. She did her post-doctoral studies at the University of Niigata in Japan, the University of Florida at Gainesville, and the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). She joined UTSA as an Assistant Professor in 2004 and was recruited as an Associate Professor at the Department of Biological Sciences at MTU as a part of the Strategic Faculty Hiring Initiative in Sustainability in Spring 2009. She directs the Environmental Biology Laboratory at the Department of Biological Sciences at MTU. Dr. Datta has more than 20 years of research experience in Plant Biochemistry and Environmental Sciences and was instrumental in developing active phytoremediation research programs at UTSA and MTU. She has authored/co-authored more than 250 peer-reviewed publications and generated more than six million dollars in grant funding primarily for developing green remediation technologies and investigating the mechanisms of hyperaccumulation and tolerance of trace metals and organics by plants. Currently, she is on a year-long sabbatical working at Stevens Institute of Technology.




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