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Earth and Environmental Studies Students Receive EPA Award

Grant funds project to remove contaminants from urban stormwater

Posted in: Science and Technology, University

Rainwater collected in rock ravine by side of road.

A team of undergraduate and graduate students, led by Earth and Environmental Studies Professor Yang Deng, recently received a $75,000 People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

By removing contaminants from urban stormwater at their source, the students’ project, “Toward Sustainable Urban Stormwater Management with New, Green, Low-Cost Sorbent-Coated Wood Mulch,” will help to shorten water treatment time and make it more efficient to provide clean and safe water.

“Montclair State has long been a leader in New Jersey in the field of environmental science, management and sustainability research,” says Scott Herness, vice provost for research and dean of The Graduate School. “This grant will enable our students and faculty to further the work being done to improve the quality of urban environments by using recycled municipal solid wastes as new adsorbents for removing heavy metal contaminants – such as lead and nutrient phosphorous – from stormwater at its source.”

The EPA’s P3 program is a two-phase research grants program that challenges students to address environmental and public health issues with innovative solutions. In Phase I, teams receive a $15,000 grant to develop concepts and showcase them at the EPA’s spring National Sustainable Design Expo. These student teams are then eligible to compete for a Phase II grant of up to $75,000 to implement.

“We are developing new methods to reuse municipal sludge for addressing issues in stormwater management,” says Deng, who recently received a Chinese-American Professors in Environmental Engineering and Science (CAPEES) 2018 Nanova Frontier Research Award in recognition of his research leadership, innovation and achievements in physicochemical water treatment technologies.

The interdisciplinary team of PhD, master’s and undergraduate students began work on Phase I of the grant program in 2016. As students started to work on different aspects of the project, regular meetings were held, according to Deng, to address the issues encountered during project implementation. “After a year of study, the team made a presentation in Washington, D.C.,” he says.

Deng anticipates that with funding from the EPA P3 grant, Phase II will take two years to complete.

“I am pleased to see the growth of our students,” Deng notes. “They applied interdisciplinary knowledge to pave the way to a sustainable approach that addresses a common urban environmental issue. Meanwhile, they have learned how to work together in a team.”

According to PhD student Lisitai Yang, the project allows the research group to develop innovative approaches to sustainable water management and is also the main focus of his doctoral study. “Getting this grant means a lot to me and our research group because it’s an approval of what we’re trying to do,” he says.

Find out more about Montclair State’s Undergraduate and Graduate research opportunities by attending one of our fall open houses:

Undergraduate Open House on Sunday, October 7, 2018

Graduate School Open House on Sunday, October 21, 2018