Scientists from across the country attended a workshop facilitated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR).  

The workshop highlighted lab and field work as well as research resulting from three years of in-situ PCB bio-degradation research in the Town of Altavista.  

“PCBs are widespread in the environment and many localities may face similar challenges with contamination of waste water treatment facilities,” said Dr. Scott Lowman, IALR scientist.

Workshop participants included environmental engineers from the University of Iowa’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, including Dr. Jerry Schnoor, the Allen S. Henry Chair in Engineering.  

Dr. Schnoor recently received funding to expand his research in the pond.  Dr. Schnoor’s team is currently investigating the hybrid poplar tree which will be planted in the sediment to break down PCBs.  Researchers from the University of Maryland also participated, including Dr. Kevin Sowers, Associate Director of the Institute of Marine & Environmental Technology.  Dr. Sower’s approach utilizes bacteria that break down PCBs in the absence of oxygen, an environment often found in sediments.  Researchers Dr. Chuansheng Mei and Dr. Scott Lowman (co-organizer of the event) were also present and their research featured the use of bacteria capable of breaking down PCBs and delivered through the roots of switchgrass.

“While each approach is a little different, it may be a combination approach that will work best.  That is one reason it is important to have meetings, such as this workshop, to share findings and

 move the science forward,” said Dr. Lowman.

The U.S. EPA and the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research hosted a workshop that included unique perspectives from regulators, stakeholders, and scientists, according to Dr.Lowman.  

Each group was interested in finding low-cost and sustainable solutions for PCB contaminated sediments.  As a result of the workshop, the separate research teams are forming a 

working group, along with the U.S. EPA and the town of Altavista, to address the problem more effectively.