My interests, experiences and passions are in the area of emerging technologies to manage human health and ecological impacts associated with toxic chemicals. With significant experience in environmental toxicology and risk assessment, coupled with research experience examining microbial and plant processes associated with the removal of persistent organic pollutants from the environment, I have maintained an active and relevant research program at Lyndon State College engaging undergraduate students. I believe my role as an educator in the natural sciences is greatly advanced by maintaining an active research program with undergraduate involvement at its core. Communication, outreach, technical and pedagogical skills are built upon imparted by my diverse professional background (regulatory, research, and education).
Current research projects
Microbial communities and micro pollutant removal by ecological wastewater treatment plants
Pharmaceuticals and other micropollutants are being detected in drinking water, groundwater, surface water, and soil around the world. Here in the US where wastewater treatment is required, they are being found in drinking water wells, municipal water supplies, and agricultural soils. About two-fifths of the world’s population experience health effects of poor sanitary conditions. It is clear conventional wastewater treatment technologies are not meeting the challenge of the mounting pressures on global freshwater supplies. To address this, cost effective ecological wastewater treatment technologies have been developed. However, the removal of micropollutants from wastewater by ecological wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) has not been investigated. This project examines whether ecological WWTPs are effectively removing micropollutants from wastewater and whether microbial biodegradation processes can be harness to promote micropollutant biodegradation.
Research reported in this project is supported by an Institutional Development Award (IDeA) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under grant number P20GM103449
Accelerated bioremediation of petroleum contaminated soil
In recent years, phytoremediation of petroleum-contaminated soil has been shown to be widely successful under different site conditions, soil types, climates, contaminant levels and composition. Reasons for the utilization of phytoremediation in place of mechanical removal and disposal remedial options are many. These include the potential for significant cost savings and a wide variety of environmental benefits that are not provided by “dig and haul” remedial options. However, some reluctance to rely on phytoremediation systems has prevailed in the environmental cleanup industry since its identification as a viable remedial option. This is in part due to hesitance to rely on ecological (living) processes to achieve remedial goals, as outcomes can be less certain, additional time is usually required, and a lack of technical knowledge of this technology in the industry persists today. However, as the environmental cleanup industry moves towards more green and sustainable remediation, projects are being considered from a more environmentally comprehensive perspective, moving beyond the perspective that the contaminant concentrations are the sole indicator of success and completion. Many are starting to adopt a more comprehensive, project life cycle consideration for remediation projects, which include the risks associated with the different remedial options including carbon emissions. Among the many environmental benefits provided by phytoremediation systems is the potential to sequester carbon during the remediation process. This is in stark contrast to dig and haul scenarios, as they are very energetically intensive.
This project examines methods to accelerate phytoremediation in cold regions.
This project is funded by the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation.
If you are interested in more information on these projects or joining the Balcom lab for undergraduate research, contact:
ian.balcom (at) lyndonstate . edu