Purdue researchers work to boost drinking water safety

Purdue researchers are rolling out a new project aimed at helping the nation better understand drinking water safety. WLFI/File Photo

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — Purdue researchers are rolling out a new project aimed at helping the nation better understand drinking water safety.

The Indiana Finance Authority recently announced plans to offer water drinking tests to all of the state’s public schools at no cost. Along with the state, researchers at Purdue University are hoping to make an impact.

Assistant professor Andrew Whelton has been raising water safety awareness ever since he discovered the call for concern.

“I bought a house and I unscrewed my faucet, and I found a huge piece of lead sitting in my faucet,” Whelton said.

Thanks to a new program sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency, Purdue will work alongside researchers at Michigan State, San Jose State and Tulane universities to predict health risks posed by low-flow water systems.

The three-year project will be funded through a $2 million grant from the EPA.

“The grant’s focus is on drinking water safety in buildings and understanding what chemicals, what organisms show up at your faucet. And then understanding how to prevent that from happening,” Whelton said.

He said the group is now working with water companies, plumbing associations and building designers. He said Purdue has also been looking into how to decontaminate a building and make it safe again.

“We have the knowledge about what chemicals and organisms are showing up,” Whelton said. “So if we come together, we can understand how to prevent the organisms and chemicals to show up based on better design.”

The group has future plans to start a website where the general public can ask questions and become better educated on the issue.

“What we really have to do is not only do the research, but we have to translate it to people, to homeowners, to realtors, to building contractors so that it affects the lives of everybody else and they can have safer, cleaner drinking water,” Whelton said.

The group has received a little over $1 million from nonfederal resources.