SW PA Research Projects-Engineering Research Accelerator - Carnegie Mellon University

Water Quality in Urban Environmental Systems (Water Quest)

Project: Panther Hollow Lake
Panther Hollow Lake (a 100 year old constructed reservoir) located in Pittsburgh, PA, is fed by two streams (Phipps Run and Panther Hollow). The surrounding area is an urban park, Schenley Park, with bridges, pedestrian trails, and roads. Directly upstream of the park is dense urban infrastructure. Carnegie Mellon University and University of Pittsburgh are within walking distance as is Phipps Conservatory, a golf course, and several residential neighborhoods. The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy is planning a restoration of Panther Hollow Lake. Our work in this area has focused on baseline bacterial monitoring to assess stream and lake water quality. We have been testing numerous citizen-monitoring kits as well as developing a GIS-based watershed model for this system. This urban watershed offers a fascinating natural laboratory for our graduate and undergraduate students.
A similar project is just beginning in Pine Creek Watershed, just north of Pittsburgh, in collaboration with 3RWW, US EPA and Pa DEP.

Project: Pine Creek Watershed
This project coordinates activities planned within the Water Quality in Urban Environmental Systems Center (Water QUEST) with those planned by 3 Rivers Wet Weather, Inc. (3RWW). These groups are working to develop microbiological and chemical monitoring protocols in watersheds that can be undertaken by citizen groups. Data produced by these citizen groups will be used to determine water quality standards attainment and to inform decisions within the TMDL framework.

Project: Hamerschlag Hall Green Roof
In the Spring of 2005 a 4100 ft2 green roof, designed by a group of faculty, staff, and students from Carnegie Mellon Green Practices, was installed on the south roof of Hamerschlag Hall. A primary motivation for the project was to provide a campus test site for evaluation of the engineering performance of green roofs for reduction in storm water runoff rate and volume, and for improvement of building insulation and energy efficiency. For storm water runoff monitoring, two identical, hydraulically isolated areas were established which each direct runoff to a single point where flow rate is monitored. A similar size, hydraulically-isolated area on a nearby conventional flat roof is used as a control. In addition, a weather station and soil moisture sensors have been installed. All monitoring systems are real-time and the data are collected continuously with a central data logger. The green roof installation was supported in part by grants from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Energy Harvest Program, and from 3 Rivers Wet Weather, Inc. Additional information about the Hamerschlag Hall green roof is available at http://www.cmu.edu/greenpractices.

Project: Nine Mile Creek Rain Barrel

Project: Pathogen Detection and Sensor Development
Our current research related to pathogens is focused on detection, with multiple lines of inquiry. Collaborating with researchers in Electrical and Computer Engineering, we are working on development of a novel chlorine sensor to monitor chlorine residuals within drinking water distribution systems. Concurrently, we are working on data analysis of existing chlorine sensors to determine the suitability of chlorine residual as a surrogate for pathogen or chemical intrusion events in drinking water distribution systems. Also ongoing is a project to consider microbial indicators of drinking water intrusion and a project to consider optimal placement of sensors in drinking water distribution systems. Direct detection of microbial pathogens in real-time remains an elusive but critical goal in order to ensure rapid response to natural or intentional intrusion events in drinking. In collaboration with a local company, Chemimage Corporation, we are evaluating the suitability of Raman spectroscopy for detection, identification, and viability assessment of specific microbial pathogens in water.

  • Jeanne VanBriesen
  • Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Email: jeanne@cmu.edu
  • Phone: 412-268-4603

Water QUEST Director