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Date: January 30, 2004

UVic Biologist Leads Major Study on Drinking Water Contamination

An international research team led by a University of Victoria aquatic ecologist has been awarded a $703,000 grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to study how molecular and biochemical tools can be used to track bacterial and chemical contamination in drinking water.

The study—which is being supplemented with $180,000 from Health Canada and $500,000 from Agriculture Canada and the beef and cattle industry—will examine the validity of various techniques currently used for tracking E. coli outbreaks in the food industry, to see if they can be applied to drinking water contamination incidents such as occurred in Walkerton, Ontario.

“Tracking the source of contamination is a huge public health issue,” says UVic’s Dr. Asit Mazumder. “Unless you know the source of the contamination, you can’t control it. But to date, the science is not there. We hope to change that.”

The new study will also assess the impact of various land use activities on fecal contamination of drinking water and what happens to the contaminants once they’re in the source water ecosystem.

“Knowing the sources of contamination is not good enough,” explains Mazumder. “We need to know what environmental variables regulate the movement, viability and outbreak potential of these contaminants.”

The interdisciplinary study team involves researchers at UVic, UBC, the University of Washington and Indiana University, as well as in-kind support from Environment Canada, and the B.C. Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection.

Mazumder heads the NSERC research chair on the environmental management of drinking water, based at UVic, which conducts interdisciplinary studies on a wide range of issues related to drinking water, watershed management, fisheries and land-use activities.

Media contacts:
Dr. Asit Mazumder (Biology) at (250) 888-2559 or mazumder@uvic.ca
Valerie Shore (UVic Communications) at (250) 721-7641/7636 or vshore@uvic.ca

UVic media releases and other resources for journalists are available on the World Wide Web at http://communications.uvic.ca/media

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