WHAT: Water Crisis in Flint, Michigan; Hurricane Sandy, affecting 24 states; BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, Gulf of Mexico, affecting 16,000 miles of coastline in five states
WHO: Michel Boufadel, Ph.D., is professor of civil engineering and director of director of NJIT’s Center for Natural Resources Development and Protection. He was a member of the National Science Foundation’s Rapid Response Team of researchers studying the effects of Hurricane Sandy on New Jersey’s Raritan Bay. His research on the BP oil spill determined that, in the wake of this environmental disaster, 22,000 tons of oil reached the Gulf shoreline in five states and that 90 percent of it landed in Louisiana. He is also a member of a committee appointed by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to assess the environmental impact of spills of the heavy Canadian crude oil known as oil sand.
Q: What can we learn from the water crisis in Flint, Michigan?
Boufadel: Our water infrastructure is aging, and we need to improve it and/or replace it. Water utilities should always consider the state of the water not only when it leaves the water treatment plant, but how this water quality is altered as it travels through the water distribution network to reach the consumer.
Q: Regarding the Newark water issue, what are some reasonable steps that officials can take?
Boufadel: The deterioration of the water infrastructure has become severe. For large consumers, such as schools, it might be less expensive to remove lead from the water on-site rather than taking action at the water treatment plant.
Q: What are the top things leaders in urban centers should do to help their cities become more sustainable?
Boufadel: I am studying pollution from highway runoff and working on technology to mitigate it. Other solutions should include:
• Educating the consumer on the water cycle (drinking water, sewer waste, stormwater).
• Reducing stormwater runoff through the use of green infrastructures to percolate the water into the ground.
• Ensuring drinking water security through the creation of inexpensive redundancies, when possible.
• Planning for natural or human-made disturbances that can disrupt water treatment plants that produce drinking water and making certain the plants can get back online relatively fast.
Dr. Boufadel can be reached: firstname.lastname@example.org or 973.596.5657.