The Puerto Rico Testsite for Exploring Contamination Threats (PROTECT) Center

Supported with funding from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences’ Superfund Research Program, The PROTECT P42 Research Center investigates exposure to environmental contamination in Puerto Rico and its contribution to adverse reproductive outcomes, specifically preterm birth (less than 37 completed weeks of gestation). Through integrated analytical, mechanistic, epidemiology, fate-transport, and remediation studies, along with a centralized, indexed data repository, the PROTECT Center is focused on delivering new knowledge and technology in the area of contaminants of interest to the Superfund Research Program as a potential cause of preterm birth. The new knowledge and technology will also be useful more broadly in the overall field of environmental health. Puerto Rico has been selected as a testsite because it has the highest rate of preterm birth (~20%) among the states and territories of the U.S., and because of the extent of hazardous waste contamination on the island.  The PROTECT Center is a multi-project, multi-institution collaboration that involves four primary institutions: Northeastern University, University of Puerto Rico, Medical Sciences Campus, University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez and University of Michigan.  The PROTECT Center is multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary and involves significant interaction and sharing of samples, testing and results among the disciplines of analytical chemistry, epidemiology, engineering and toxicology.



Green Remediation of Contaminated Groundwater by Solar Energy Conversion into Electrolysis is part of the PROTECT Center (Project 5). Our long-term goal is to develop a green remediation based on conversion of solar energy into electrolysis in groundwater. Electrolysis will cause chemical reduction of contaminants in groundwater without adverse effects on groundwater environment. The process could be implemented in alluvial aquifers and is also suited for karstic groundwater aquifers because the dynamic flow conditions in channels and fractures require controlled rates of electrolysis.  The project demonstrates the transformation of trichloroethylene (TCE) and other contaminants (e.g., semi-polar organics such as phthalates), develops a predictive tool “model” for transformation, evaluates the effect of electrolysis on groundwater geochemistry and the physical properties of the aquifer and assesses the cytotoxicity of treated water.

Induced Partial Saturation (IPS) through Transport and Reactivity for Liquefaction Mitigation (PI: Yegian)

Mitigation of liquefaction-induced damage to the built environment continues to be an important priority and a major challenge in civil engineering. This project advances the IPS as a liquefaction mitigation measure to be considered by the professional engineering community in practice. The goal of the project include evaluating the fundamental factors affecting the process of IPS in sand by chemicals injection under field conditions, demonstrating the effectiveness of IPS in preventing the occurrence of liquefaction. The proposed research takes advantage of the unique experimental and field facilities of the NSF George E. Brown, Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES) to acquire fundamental knowledge on the behavior of IPS in sands and to develop enabling technologies to verify the effectiveness of IPS as a liquefaction mitigation measure. This is a collaborative effort and the research team is composed of experts in the geotechnical earthquake engineering and liquefaction, and the geoenvironmental field. The program includes small-scale laboratory tests and numerical simulations at Northeastern University, tests using NEES@Buffalo’s large laminar box, preliminary field tests at Northeastern University and at Boise State University (utilizing their drilling rig and equipment), and field research and verification of the effect of IPS on liquefaction using NEES@UTexas T-Rex at the NEES@UCSB Wildlife Refuge. One of the tasks that our group is leading is evaluating, testing and simulating transport and reactivity of a low concentration of sodium percarbonate solution in sand, rates of oxygen gas formation and associated changes in saturation and hydraulic conductivity.  The Project is led by Professor Yegian (PI) and is sponsored by NSF NEES Program award #1134940.