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Friday, June 1, 2001

  • Walking next week? Sign up now
  • New approach to water treatment
  • Events at the beginning of June

Walking next week? Sign up now

It's time to sign up "to help reduce air pollution and to win great prizes", says Patti Cook, UW's waste management coordinator.

The occasion is the second annual Commuter Challenge in Waterloo Region, scheduled for Tuesday through Thursday next week. Says Cook: "On June 5, 6 and 7, 'green commute' to and from work. You can carpool, bus, walk, or bike. Do it for your health, for exercise, for the environment, and for our community!

"If you already walk, bike, bus or carpool -- great! You are still qualified to register and may win some fantastic prizes. All participation counts, so join the effort even if it's just for one day.

"The Commuter Challenge in Waterloo Region involves 20 local companies. The organization with the highest level of participation wins the challenge. Plenty of great prizes are available to be won from the Commuter Challenge as well from our campus sponsors, Retail Services and Food Services.

"Let's be part of the solution to our road congestion and air quality issues in Waterloo Region!"

Registration is through a special web page, and more information is available on Cook's web site.

Another green note: May 14 to May 20 was Environmental Awareness Week at Village I, organized by Sandy Kiang (a second-year environment and resource studies student who's working with the Federation of Students environment commission) along with Cook and Jason Coolman, residence life coordinator in the Village.

Cook reports that some 600 lug-a-mugs stuffed with free beverage vouchers and "turn off light and monitor" stickers were given away to village one residents. "Thanks goes to Food Services for generously donating the mugs and beverage vouchers!"

Every day during dinner, she goes on, informal presentations by Environment Commission students were given -- on air quality, the environment commission, climate change, transportation, endangered species, and the ecological footprint. Members include Crystal Legacy, Kristy Mitchell, Renee Moran, Jennifer Niece, and Suzanne van der Leeuw.

And the big news: "Congratulations to students from East 3 who were the most environmentally friendly! The house wins a trip to Sportsworld."

[Adjusting controls on filter]

New approach to water treatment

A feature story in this week's Gazette described the research into water treatment being done by Monica Emelko (right) of UW's civil engineering department. "Her mission," wrote freelance writer Bob Whitton, "is to contribute not just to the safety of tap water of the Kitchener-Waterloo community but throughout Ontario and beyond."

Since last year's Walkerton crisis, all Ontarians are aware of the importance of safeguarding drinking water supplies. But only a few years earlier (1993), Waterloo Region residents were advised to boil tap water because of the possible presence of Cryptospiridium parvum, a pathogenic microbial life form. The Cryptospiridium scare has more recently re-emerged at North Battleford, Saskatchewan.

Boiling is still considered the safest way to deal with the "crypto" problem. Chlorinating the water won't kill it, and neither will ozone or iodine. And there is no medicine that will clear it up once it gets into your body. You simply have to let it run its course. Moreover, you can get it not only from drinking lake or river water but also from your kitchen tap, if the water is not adequately treated -- or if it somehow becomes contaminated after treatment.

"For most people," Emelko admits, "cryptosporidiosis is survivable. Those who are stricken experience an upset stomach and diarrhea, sometimes quite severe, for a day or two. But for small children, elderly people, the immunocompromised (AIDS victims, those on chemotherapy) and others who may be 'susceptible,' it can be very serious indeed. It can be fatal."

The Crypto contamination of the Waterloo region water supply involved water taken from the Grand River. Most of the community's water supply relies on groundwater pumped from wells, but part of it is also taken from surface water (the Grand). In the opinion of experts, it had probably gotten into the river from runoff from livestock wastes.

Emelko is particularly interested in finding ways for smaller cities and towns to deal with Cryptosporidium effectively because they simply cannot afford the massive, complex water treatment technologies that are available to officials in large cities.

One research pathway she has been looking into involves the use of diatomaceous earth (DE) to filter it (or other contamination) out of a community water supply. Diatomaceous earth is simply silica that abounds in the skeletal remains of diatoms (microscopic plants). It has been recognized as effective filtration material for decades, but has received limited attention. One can pipe contaminated water through a bed of DE, and when it gets through it will be free of the contamination.

"DE is a known, effective filtration agent," Emelko concludes. "Our renewed interest in DE is largely because it appears to be a robust technology. It doesn't involve chemicals. It's relatively inexpensive. It can be recycled. It's environmentally friendly (compared with chlorine, for instance) and it's fairly low-tech. Not only does DE work well for Cryptosporidium removal, but the maintenance of the technology appears to be considerable less than that of a full-scale treatment plant which must be well-managed and staffed to maintain Cryptosporidium removal. The robustness of the DE technology coupled with its relatively low maintenance requirement is ideal for small communities."

She adds: "You only need a small amount. Though no system is completely fail-safe, we are continuing to examine the full spectrum of operational issues associated with DE filtration closely -- and to date the system seems to be as fail-safe as can be designed, because it shuts down in the event of non-optimal operation."

She says UW's Susan Andrews, Neil Thomson and Peter Huck, holder of an NSERC industrial research chair in water treatment and one of her PhD supervisors, are key individuals on the Waterloo campus "The wealth of expertise readily available here makes this a very exciting place for me," she insists. "The university is known all over the world for its many accomplishments in this particularly broad field."

The Keystone Fund

Early response to the Keystone Fund mailing that went out this week has been "amazing", says Bonnie Oberle in UW's development office, who reports that pledge forms were arriving within hours after the information package was sent to staff, faculty and retirees.

The annual appeal for contributions from the people who work here is now 21 years old (though the Keystone name was added only recently) and now brings in half a million dollars a year. "Join others," the mailing suggests, "in saying we are confident and proud of UW and what it represents. . . . Your participation, like the gifts from alumni, students, and parents, sets an example for corporations, foundations, and individuals outside of the University."

Events at the beginning of June

Let's hope the rain doesn't start until this morning's kids' event is over. It's the fifth annual "fun morning" for UW's various day care centres, starring entertainer Erick Traplin, to run from 9:30 to 11:00 on the Village green.

And also in the open air, a busload organized by the Math Grad Committee is off to Canada's Wonderland for the day today.

The staff association will hold its annual general meeting at 11:45 a.m. in Davis Centre room 1302, to hear reports from executive members and vote on some changes to the group's constitution -- including a provision that all new staff members starting at UW (as of September 1 this year) are automatically members of the association. At today's meeting, Ed Chrzanowski of the math faculty computing facility takes over from Paul McKone of engineering computing as association president.

The Worship Together conference continues, based in Ron Eydt Village; there will be a concert at 11:05 this morning in the Humanities Theatre.

Chris Eliasmith of the philosophy department will give a talk at 2:30 this afternoon (Humanities room 373). Topic: "How Brains Represent: Sensing Motion". This talk was postponed from the original date a couple of weeks ago.

A reception and dinner in honour of Terry Hollands, retiring from the department of mechanical engineering, will take place at the University Club tonight; the reception starts at 4:00. Ethel Spike in the mech eng office, phone ext. 6740, should have last-minute information.

The National Magazine Awards are to be given tonight, and several of the nominees are linked to UW. In the short fiction category, two of the nominated stories were published in UW's The New Quarterly: "A Sketch of the 17th Century", by Margaret Sweatman, and "Bad News of the Heart", by Douglas Glover. Also from TNQ, and nominated in the poetry category, is a suite of five poems by Don McKay, "A Spill of Light". Another nominee for poetry is Erin (Noteboom) Bow, a staff member in the computer systems group, whose poems were published in The Malahat Review.

Tomorrow brings this term's programming contest, organized (by Gordon Cormack of the computer science department) with an eye to recruiting members for UW's team in the worldwide ACM contest next fall.

Engineering graduates who have been out of UW for five, 10, 15, 20 or 25 years come back to campus this weekend to talk about old times, marvel at the changes, and meet the people who are here now. A barbecue (from 12:30) and "beer garden" (from 2:00) are scheduled at the Student Life Centre tomorrow; UW president David Johnston hosts a reception at 4:00, also at the SLC; and in the evening, older alumni have a reunion dinner in the grand ballroom of the Four Points Sheraton downtown.

Members of the Jewish Students Association have been urged to show up for a "rally against racial violence" at 2:00 Saturday afternoon in Kitchener's Victoria Park, where a young black man was stabbed to death last week.

Meanwhile, a busload from the staff association is off tomorrow on the second of this season's Niagara wine tours.

Centre Stage Dance has performances in the Humanities Theatre at 7:00 Saturday night and 2:00 Sunday afternoon.

[Ride for Heart graphic] One of the big community events of the season, the Manulife Ride for Heart, is scheduled for Sunday, starting at Waterloo Park. The annual event is a fund-raiser for the new cardiac care centre at St. Mary's Hospital. The route will take hundreds of bicyclists right past campus -- Seagram Drive will be closed for several hours.


[UW logo] Editor of the Daily Bulletin: Chris Redmond
Information and Public Affairs, University of Waterloo
credmond@uwaterloo.ca | (519) 888-4567 ext. 3004
http://www.bulletin.uwaterloo.ca | Yesterday's Bulletin
Copyright © 2001 University of Waterloo