EPA Scientist Nicholas Dugan works to Safeguard our Drinking Water

Nicholas Dugan: Every single day I get to
go to work and I do something that hopefully helps make the water that comes out of the
tap safer. My name is Nicholas Dugan, and I’m an environmental
engineer, and I’ve been working for the Environmental Protection Agency for 17 years,
and I perform bench and pilot-scaled drinking water treatment studies to look at the most
efficient and cost-effective way of removing a wide range of contaminants from drinking
water. Algal toxins, they are a big problem nationally,
and they show up in at least half of the states in the union.
So it is definitely a nationwide problem, and there’s a couple of major reasons for
why these blooms are harmful. Most freshwater harmful algal blooms are caused
by a bacterium that photosynthesizes. They’re called cyanobacteria.
And they release several different types of toxins, and these toxins affect the body in
two main ways: the first is, there’s one type of toxin that affects the central nervous
system and there’s another type of toxin that affects the liver.
We as an agency need to understand how these cyanobacteria, how their cells, and
also the toxins that these cells produce, how they actually move through a drinking water
treatment plant and where in the water treatment plant, in the existing facilities, are they
most effectively removed. My hope with the algal blooms is that the
information that I help to generate is something that practicing consulting engineers and managers
at drinking water utilities, will be used by them to work collaboratively to essentially
figure out a way to cost effectively upgrade or change the operation of their treatment
facilities to lower the probability of the consuming public coming to harm from these
toxins. I go to work every day, I know I’m doing
the right thing. Because drinking water, the water that comes out of your tap, it’s
important to every single person in this country. [Music]

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