The ASARCO smelter in Ruston, Wash., was in operation from the 1890s to the 1980s, during which time it contaminated the south-central Puget Sound region with heavy metals, including arsenic and lead. With 83% of the lakes in the zone of deposition having surface sediments exceeding published “probable effects concentrations” for arsenic and lead, there is evidence for possible ongoing environmental health concerns.
Arsenic is a priority Superfund contaminant, neurotoxin and carcinogen. However, the human health and ecological implications of this contamination are unclear due to an incomplete understanding of arsenic bioavailability in urban waters, which are typically affected by nutrient-rich conditions. Our work looks to quantify primary drivers of arsenic mobility, bioavailability and ecological toxicity in urban lakes.
Dr. Jim Gawel is associate professor of environmental chemistry and engineering at UW Tacoma, where he has taught and conducted research with undergraduates for over 17 years. He received his B.S. in Civil Engineering from Brown University and his Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from MIT. He has studied metal chemistry and its biological effects in trees in Canada and the mountains of New England and Norway, in lakes in Massachusetts and Washington, and in mussels and worms in Puget Sound.
For his research, Jim has given blood (unwillingly) to thousands of black flies, he has had to remove leaches from his feet multiple times, and he has had to hitchhike with tourists and their schnauzers in a Winnebago to get back to his vehicle.
See our schedule at http://www.tacoma.uw.edu/sias/thinkndrink.