Recent News

For older news, please see our Archived News page.


$11.3 million NIH Superfund award to address environmental health issues caused by VOCs

A warm congratulations to Dr. Carol Miller and Dr. Melissa Runge-Morris for being five-year, approximately $11.3 million award from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) of the National Institutes of Health to create a new Superfund Research Program, the "Center for Leadership in Environmental Awareness and Research (CLEAR)." The Center will be dedicated to understanding and mitigating adverse birth outcomes and serious developmental health problems that have been associated with urban environmental exposure to volatile organic chemcials (VOCs), a special class of pollutant found in the subsurface of post-industrial cities like Detroit.

Dr. Vasquez will conduct first national survey of Belize's freshwater habitats as Fulbright Scholar

Wayne State University School of Medicine doctoral alumnus and Assistant Professor of Physiology Adrian Vasquez, Ph.D., was awarded a 2022-2023 Fulbright United States Scholar Award to Central America, where he will spend the first four months of 2023 working alongside faculty and students to teach and conduct research in Belize's freshwater habitats.

Project aims to find new ways to convert river water into drinking water as pollutants evolve

The Great Lakes Water Authority is contracting with Wayne State University to do research at its Waterworks Park treatment plant in Detroit. Inside the facility there's a 12,000-to-1 scale model of the water treatment system. 

A new approach to groundwater sampling: Using plants and insects to monitor environmental toxins

Dr. Shirley Papuga and Dr. Glen Hood's research on utilizing galls as a bioindicator of VOCs in groundwater was recently highlighted in Today@Wayne. Galls, or tumor-life growths that form on trees, accumulate high concentrations of nutrients from the roots of trees and Their research, which showed galls could be used to detect heavy metals and dioxane, was recently published in the journal Plant and Soil.

Water samples show nicotine, cocaine, antibiotics in Great Lakes waterways

Dr. Tracie Baker's research on emerging contaminants was recently highlighted in the Detroit Free Press. Dr. Baker's lab has been conducting sampling along the Detroit River and Lake St. Clair for the last four years and has found numerous contaminants in the water, including but not limited to nicoteine, PFAS, antibiotics, and caffeine.

Congratulations to former WSU researcher Eric Andersen on his recent section as USACE Chief of General Engineering Section in Detroit, Michigan

Dr. Eric Andersen, a former Wayne State Civil Engineering Alumnus, was recently selected as Chief of General Engineering Section in the Detroit Office.  Eric was selected amid a very strong applicant pool and showed his readiness to support the mission and meet the high quality standards of the USACE. Congratulations!


Congratulations to Healthy Urban Waters partner Dr. John Barkach on his successful dissertation defense!

Healthy Urban Water partner Dr. John Barkach recently completed his PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Wayne State in the Fall 2021 semester. He successfully defended his dissertation, Estimating Bedload Sediment Delivery to the Great Lakes from Sixty Michigan Rivers, and graduated with his doctorate. Congratulations to John!

"Detroit River Phytoplankton from Water Treatment Plant Data" featured in Journal of AWWA

A recent study lead by HUW researchers in collaboration with researchers from University of Detroit-Mercy and Great Lakes Water Authority was featured in the Journal of American Water Works Association. The publication focuses on how historical analysis of phytoplankton is being used to evaluate the river health.

Detroit homes are being overwhelmed by flooding and it's not just water coming in

Detroit has experienced increasing number of large scale floods, including this past summer which flooded freeways, streets, and thousands of homes' basements. HUW has been collaborating with University of Michigan and WSU's Center for Urban Studies on flood research for the past couple years and recently released a report highlighting the causes of flooding and providing resources for those affected by flooding.

Season 2, Episode 3 - William Shuster, chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering, on how to curtail massive flooding in Detroit

Prof. William Shuster, Chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the College of Engineering, discusses massive flooding in Detroit and what can be done to curb the deluges. 

Historic floods fuel misery, rage in Detroit

Detroit has been overwhelmed with historic precipiation events this summer causing flooding and damage to resident's homes. These events have been increasing in magnitude and frequency in recent years.

Moving towards a sustainable future in urban cities

In the heart of Wayne State's campus, just outside the historical Linsell house, an interdisciplinary team of students is working on something groundbreaking literally. The group is installing a bioswale a cost-efficient landscape installation that allows urban neighborhoods to monitor groundwater flow and quality.  

Governor, Mayor, & DWSD Update Public on Response to Severe Flooding due to most significant rainstorm in at least 80 years

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist, Mayor Mike Duggan, and Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) Director Gary Brown provided an update on the flooding response following a historic rainstorm on June 26. Officials commit to assisting Detroiters through the recovery process, including seeking a presidential disaster declaration.

Healthy Urban Waters publishes Household Flooding in Detroit report with Wayne State's Center for Urban Studies and University of Michigan researchers

Our team of community leaders, consultants, and researchers prepared this brief report to: 1) provide an overview of this under-acknowledged public health issue, 2) share key findings from a related door-to-door survey, and 3) discuss potential solutions that may begin to address this widespread issue & underlying inequities.

'Not just an inconvenience': Study shows flooding is a public health crisis in Detroit

A preprint for a new study from researchers at Wayne State University and the University of Michigan shows there are likely many people in her position dealing with the mental and physical fallout from flooding, which has been made worse by climate change and the city's aging long-neglected infrastructure

Answers in the trees: Nigerian engineering Ph.D. student searches for stormwater solutions

HUW researcher Kate Ekhator was recently featured on the Today@Wayne news website highlighting her research efforts in stormwater soluitons.

Surviving in a Changing World: Social Work researcher illuminates the impact of environmental changes on older Detroiters with community-based study

Wayne State University School of Social Work Associate Professor Tam Perry, PhD has been awarded funding by the Wayne State University HUW initiative to study the experiences of older Detroiters within the changing urban landscape.

HUW Symposium: One World. One Health. One Water.

On January 27th, the Healthy Urban Waters (HUW) Symposium showcased the connections of water in our environment to human health.  The symposium presented multidisciplinary research, featuring lightning talks from students, faculty, staff, and researchers associated with HUW and across the Huron to Erie (HE) corridor. HUW Director, Dr. Carol Miller, welcomed over 70 participants from universities, grass roots organizations, public entities, and community partners, including the Great Lakes Water Authority, Clinton River Watershed Council, Greening of Detroit, Detroit Zoological Society and University of Detroit Mercy.  See the recording here. 

Learn more about the One Health Pilot Program for WSU researchers here

Dr. Dima S. El-Gamal, WSU Alum, is appointed to Michigan Board of Professional Engineers by Governor Whitmer

Artificial Intelligence innovation from Wayne State University & tech startup, E2i, reduces local carbon footprint of water treatment

  • Also see more about the Water Energy Nexus AI application here.

Chemicals found in Southeast Michigan's waterways present environmental challenge


dbusiness News on Covid wastwater testing by University of Michigan, and groundwater quality data projects at Wayne State University

Wayne State researchers and students receive EPA funding to understand Detroit's unique groundwater/stormwater interface

Wayne State joins $10 million COVID-19 wastewater surveillance and testing project

Free Webinar: AI for Plant Management: Leverage Big Data + Algorithms to Reduce your Carbon Footprint and Energy Costs

Learn from industry-leading peers about the LEEM tool (Locational Emissions Estimation Methodology) and its value in helping your plant achieve its carbon and energy reduction goals. The LEEM AI works behind the scenes bringing together big data and a world-class algorithm to make achieving plant operational goals simple and extremely cost effective. Implementing LEEM is as easy as reading an email and flipping a switch. LEEM has been used effectively by water treatment plants across the country. This webinar will allow attendees to: (1) evaluate the value proposition of emission reduction activiites by water treatment plants, (2) understand potential use cases for shedding, shifting, and storing electricity, and (3) learn behavioral approaches taken to reduce emissions and energy costs by water industry peers, as well as the impacts achieved.

Mighty mites might manage mosquitoes

Learn about how mites are an important part of the ecosystem with research from HUW researcher Adrian Vasquez. "Being a native predator and parasite is a huge advantage, because there's no concern about whether it would become an invasive species," Vasquez says. 

Wayne Medicine and Wayne Law professors team up to explore legal and ethical issues of wastewater monitoring for COVID-19

With the support of Healthy Urban Waters, Dr Jeffery Ram has helped to assemble a team of collaborators from many different disciplines inside and outside of Wayne State to tackle this issue.

Why biodiversity matters in urban areas like Detroit

Creating habitat and bringing biodiversity into downtown Detroit is one way to help ensure safe water and healthy landscapes. The City of Detroit and several organizations across the metro area are installing green infrastructure and rain gardens that incorporate native plants, while also working to improve the city's tree canopy. Read more on how The Detroit Biodiversity Network, founded by students at Wayne State University, is part of the solution. 

Epidemic of wipes and masks plagues sewers, storm drains

Officials in other U.S. cities and rural communities and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have issued pleas warning consumers of flushing face masks, gloves and wipes as wastewater plant operators report a surge of stopped-up pipes and damage to equipment.

This has occured in municipalities around the country, including Philadelphia, the Washington D.C. metro area, and Metro Detroit's own Macomb County, where a 100 foot long fatberg was removed from one interceptor in 2018. 

$25,000 awarded to STEAM Challenge 2020 winners

The Wayne State University 2020 STEAM Challenge, which brings together interdisciplinary student teams to address a social problem in our city, has concluded. The final pitch competition, which transitioned this year from a public, in-person event to a private virtual event, due to COVID-19 concerns, consisted of six teams vying for their share of $25,000 in cash prizes. 

The first-place winner, Detroit AirNet, will receive $12,000 plus $2,500 in business services from TechTown. Not Alone came in second and will receive $8,000. Creative Collection took third and will receive $5,000.

Detroit AirNet is made up of a number of students from the Wayne State Civil Engineering department, including Healthy Urban Water's Brendan O'Leary, and their project focuses on implementing VOC air sensors across the City of Detroit and will create a partnership to install and analyze the data collected from these sensors.


How a Michigan Fatberg Was Turned Into an Educational Opportunity

Municipal Sewer and Water recently featured our Fatberg project in their magazine!

Massive sewer accumulations of fats, oils and grease are on the rise. The system impact of FOG is greatly exacerbated by a vast array of solid consumer products, namely so-called "flushable" wipes, that also accumulate in the sewer.

Often, the FOG deposits combine with the improperly disposed solid debris (including personal care products, wipes and trash) creating a heterogeneous conglomeration called a fatberg that can evolve into a significant blockage of the sewer, causing backups and sewer overflows, exposing humans and the environment to raw sewage.

Upcoming Event: AI, Big Data and Analytics Ecosystem Town Hall

Dr. Carol Miller is set to speak at the AI, Big Data and Analytics Ecosystem Town Hall on November 4. Dr. Miller will be speaking on Healthy Urban Waters.

Wayne State launched a new AI, Big Data and Analytics Initiative last year. Through a cluster hire based on faculty proposals, WSU recruited nine new scholars across the university to strengthen our ecosystem; these cluster hires started this fall. WSU has also invested in new computing platforms and secured additional grant funding to strengthen our grid and central computing facilities for research. The goal is to create interdisciplinary synergies across campus that will further enhance our ecosystem to support education, scholarship and research.

Detroit Biodiversity Network wins 2019 Ford College Community Challenge Award

The Detroit Biodiversity Network (DBN), a student-led sustainability-focused organization at Wayne State University has been awarded a 2019 Ford College Community Challenge Award from the Ford Motor Company Fund to carry out and expand its Sustainable Landscape Collaborative program in partnership with community-based non-profit organization Detroit Future City (DFC).

This one-year, $25,000 award will support greenhouse upgrades and the training of Wayne State University students from diverse backgrounds as DBN Fellows, gaining expertise in native plant propagation, sustainable landscape practices, and green stormwater infrastructure design and management. DBN Fellows will work closely with community partners in DFC's Working with Lots program, which provides nearly $100,000 in grants annually to help Detroiters implement sustainable lot designs from the organization's Field Guide to Working with Lots instructional book. 

Thriving Earth Exchange Launches First Cohort of Community Science Fellows

Congratulations to PhD student Brendan O'Leary on receiving AGU's Thriving Earth Exchange Community Science Fellowship! The Community Science Fellows are chosen based on their experience and interest in combing their scientific studies with community work. Each Fellow is matched with a local community and is responsible for shepherding a community science project from idea to impact.

Ecological wonder: In a Wayne State parking lot, bioswales provide unique stormwater solution

Wayne State University's green infrastructure was recently highlighted on Today@Wayne. This site is being managed and monitored completed by students with help from organizations suhc as Detroit Biodiversity Network and Healthy Urban Waters.

Blue Accounting: Healthy Urban Waters' Huron-to-Erie-Real-Time Drinking Water Protection Network

Healthy Urban Water's page on the Blue Accounting website recently went live. Blue Accounting is a collaborative effort to utilize existing data to set shared goals and measure achievement on those goals. We're glad our Huron to Erie Drinking Water Monitoring Network is being utilized in this effort!

Pontiac becomes test site for $929,000 microplastics study by Wayne State researchers

A group of researchers from Wayne State University and environmental nonprofit Reroot Pontiac have been awarded a $929,000 grant to develop a microplastic detecting sensor. The three-year-grant, awarded by the Great Lakes Protection Fund, will be used to develop a microplastic sensor and software to detect and analyze microplastics and their sources in the water supply. The study will take place at two testing sites, one in Pontiac and the other in Williamston, located just outside of Lansing.

New partners join U-M-based CIGLR to keep the Great Lakes great

Wayne State has recently been accepted to join Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research, or CIGLR, a regional consortium that partners with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in research and development activities that support their mission in the Great Lakes.

A Dip in the Water: Healthy Urban Waters Symposium on May 20

A Dip in the Water symposium is an opportunity for community members and local organizations to hear about the water research being done at Wayne State University. The symposium will feature lightning talks from interisciplinary topics ranging from groundwater contamination to environmental justice. It will also include a short poster session which will feature research topics from a variety of disciplines in the university.

Save The Date: Global Health, Justice, and the Environment Symposium on September 10-11, 2019

Healthy Urban Waters will be joining other environmental groups from Wayne State to host the Global Health, Justice, and the Environment Syposium on September 10-11, 2019, with support from the Office of the Vice President for Research. Stay tuned for more information on this upcoming event.

Erie Hack 2.0 Launches

On Thursday February 7, Eric Hack 2.0 is being launched. Erie Hack is an international, tech-driven water innovation competition and accelerator program that focuses on creating publicly accessible mobile apps, open data and new technology to elevate the value of clean water and leverage its potential to drive economic vitality. Winners will share in more than $100,000 in prizes, including cash and entrepreneurial acceleration services.

Billions of water gallons wasted in the region

February 2019 - Dr. Carol Miller, director of Healthy Urban Waters, was recently interviewed in reference to the increasing water infrastructure issues coming to light. Specifically, the aging water infrastructure is and lack of funding is going to continue causing problems in the future. In addition, water waste is a growing issue, as aging infrastructure is more prone to leakage and breakage. Asset management is becoming increasingly necessary and being perfored in the GLWA system.

Blue Accounting releases data tools showing source water risks and protections in Great Lakes Basin

February 2019 - Blue Accounting's Source Water Initiative recently launched visual tools that illustrate work to protect source water in the Great Lakes Basin. The visual tools measure progress toward four goals: protecting drinking water from nutrient impacts; ensuring all public water supply systems are guided by up‐to‐date protection strategies; taking action on contaminants of emerging concern; and building binational consensus on strategies for source water protection across the Great Lakes Basin.

Detroit Erie Hack 2.0 Launches

February 2019 - Join Cleveland Water Alliance, TechTown, Wayne State University, WeTech Alliance, AT&T, Cranbrook Institute of Science: Freshwater Forum, Digital C and many other great partners as we launch Erie Hack 2.0!

Erie Hack is a $100,000 data and engineering competition designed to generate innovative technology solutions for Lake Erie Basin's most pressing problems. This program leverages the expertise of researchers, designers, engineers, developers and creatives across the region to activate, cultivate and accelerate these hacks. In its first iteration, the program generated over 40 innovative solutions to water challenges, engaged over 100 partner organizations and attracted coverage from over 150 press outlets globally as it put over 200 of region's best minds to work for our most precious resource.

Learn more about Erie Hack here:

Pieces of Macomb County 'fatberg' donated to Wayne State for research

January 2019 - A collection of fats, oils, and grease, also known as a fatberg, was found in an 11-foot diameter sewer pipe known as the Lakeshore Interceptor in September 2018. During removal, parts of the fatberg were preserved and will be donated to Wayne State University to be analyzed. In addition, the intention is to display pieces at the Michigan Science Center.

Dr. Carol Miller to speak at Okayama University

Dr. Carol Miller, director of Healthy Urban Waters, and Dr. Melissa Runge-Morris, director of CURES Center, travelled to Japan to speak at the 10th International Symposium for Future Technology Creating Better Human Health and Society.


High cost of water treatment affecting Monroe

November 2018 - During a presentation last week to the University Research Corridor, Barry LaRoy, Monroe water and wastewater director, said the city's water-treatment costs go well beyond the additional chlorine and other chemicals used to remove the algal toxin microcystin. Other challenges include the new lead-and-copper rule and microplastics, being studied by the Healthy Urban Waters program.

Second Annual Sustainable Detroit Forum on October 24

October 2018 - The second annual Sustainable Detroit Forum will be happening at the end of October. Hosted at Wayne State University, it's designed to connect and cross-fertilize the sustainability communites of Detroit. Healthy Urban Waters' program coordinator Jamie Steis Thorsby will be presenting on green infrastructure and flood mitigation.

GLWA hires first Chief Operating Officer for Wastewater Operations

September 2018 - Great Lakes Water Authority announced the hiking of Navid Mehramm as its Chief Operation Officer for Wastewater Operations. This is the first time GLWA has had a COO solely dedicated to the wastewater operations team. Navid is a graduate of Wayne State University, earning his Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering. Congratulations Navid!

Wayne State team using buoys to detect Lake Erie pollutants

August 2018 - A team of graduate students from Wayne State University in Detroit has developed a more efficient way to detect contaminants in Lake Erie in an ongoing effort to clean the water. By putting in-house manufactured sensors inside a buoy that can instantly read and send data, the Wayne State team, MicroBuoy, captured the top prize at the 2017 Erie Hack Water Innovation Summit in Cleveland. During the Erie Hack competition, which awarded prizes to those generating solutions to solve some of Lake Erie's biggest challenges, the Wayne State team received $40,000, along with $10,000 support services to try and commercialize its invention.

URCPreserving Our State's Freshwater Heritage

June 2018 - HUW research was recently highlighted by the University Research Corridor (URC),an alliance of Wayne State, University of Michigan, and Michigan State research.  HUW research, particularly the water quality monitoring network and beach contamination research, was highlighted as examples of the work being done to preserve the Great Lakes.

How Is Our Health Tied To The Health Of The Great Lakes?WDET

June 2018 - Our director, Carol Miller, discusses how human health is related to the health of the Great Lakes on Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson. Miller says "coming up with methods that can be used to, perhaps, forewarn about dangers coming in" to Michigan's bodies of water is important because "caring for the lakes requires that prediction and safe-guarding against threats."


The Great Lakes Water Utility Energy Challenge Announces Its Winners!

May 2018 - The Great Lakes Protection Fund and American Water Works Association are thrilled to announce the winners of the inaugural Water Utility Energy Challenge (WUEC), an innovative program which engaged water operators in a competition to reduce the emissions sourced in their energy generation. The inaugural 2017-2018 competition, focused on the Great Lakes Basin, was aimed at connecting the utilities with new innovative software that reduces mercury and other emissions while reducing the utility's operations and management costs.

The winners are:

Water Utility Emissions Champion, $20,000 Prize - City of Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Water Utility Green Champion, $10,000 Prize - City of Bayfield, Bayfield, Wisconsin

Best Pilot Project - Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA), Detroit, Michigan

Technical Leader - City of Highland Park, Highland Park, Illinois

Carbon Reduction Leader - Onondaga County Water Authority (OCWA), North Syracuse, New York

Congratulations to the winners!

Preserving Our State's Freshwater Heritage

May 2018 - Universities in the University Research Corridor are doing valuable research and work involving Michigan's freshwater resources. This includes studies related to improving water infrastructure on large scales at University of Michigan, projects that help communities with their own water infrastructure issues at Michigan State University, and the work done at HUW work, which includes water quality monitoring along the Lake Huron to Lake Erie corridor.

From Puerto Rico to Detroit: Orlando Rios finds his research home

April 2018 - Orlando Rios was recently featured in a Today@Wayne article. Rios, a university student at University of Puerto Rico, recently transfered to Wayne State University to finish his undergraduate degree in environmental science with a minor in geology. He was brought here using funds through a National Science Foundation grant though Dr. Donna Kashian's T-RUST program and is currently working with Shirley Papuga on a pilot project funded through Wayne State's Office of the Vice President for Research and Healthy Urban Waters. 

Wisconsin Public Radio: Great Lakes Cities Compete To Reduce Water Utility Emissions

March 2018 - A handful of water utilities around the Great Lakes have been competing over the last year to reduce pollution by controlling the electricity they consume from the power grid. One northern Wisconsin community has been able to cut down mercury emissions as much as 25 percent by pumping water at certain times during the day.

The City of Bayfield is competing with cities like Ann Arbor, Michigan and Detroit to lower mercury and other emissions as part of the Water Utility Energy Challenge. Through the competition, five cities have been testing out new technology developed by researchers to track pollution, said Carol Miller, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Wayne State University in Michigan.

Click here to listen to the segment

Healthy Urban Waters Professor Receives the Azure Award from Microsoft

March 2018 - A team of Wayne State researchers have received an Azure Award the "AI for Earth" award from Microsoft. The awards are intended to drive exploration and discovery by providing innovative data science, spatial analysis and visualization tools to organizations focused on finding solutions to climate change, loss of biodiversity, agricultural cost and yield, and increased water scarcity.

Wayne State's project, "AI for Earth: A Cloud-based Analytics for Real-time Monitoring of Landfills/Superfund Sites and the Adjacent Watershed," aims to address the issue of water contamination in Michigan caused from leakage of toxic and superfund sites, which poses significant challenges to environmental and human health.

Doctors Yongli Zhang, a Healthy Urban Waters team member, and Weisong Shi will lead the effort. Congratulations to them both!

2018 Annual Big Data & Business Analytics Symposium

March 2018 - Healthy Urban Water's director, Dr. Carol Miller, will be participating in a panel at the 2018 Annual Big Data and Business Analytics Symposium on March 21, 2018. This symposium focuses on pragmatic issues faced while deploying big data strategies to drive business success. Dr. Miller will be discussing the Huron to Erie Drinking Water Monitoring Network and the efforts being done to collect water quality data and analyze it.

Great Lakes Water Authority Partners with World-Class Universities to Conduct Innovative Research

February 2018 - The Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) will continue its focus on research and innovation through renewed partnerships with three world-class universities, including the University of Michigan, Wayne State University and Michigan State University.

"The Authority is always seeking out partnerships that will help us pioneer solutions to optimize our operations," said Sue McCormick, CEO, GLWA. "At our core, we are scientists and engineers, and the treatment and other processes that occur in our plants and piping systems depend heavily on complicated chemistry, microbiology and hydraulics. If there are ways to enhance our ability to deliver water of unquestionable quality and effective, efficient wastewater services through new technology or breakthrough research, we want to seize those opportunities."

The authorty will partner with Wayne State University on two specific areas: Drinking water monitoring system enhancement and Contaminants of emerging concern regarding drinking water treatment.

Clearing the Air: The Water Utility Energy Challenge puts five utilities into competition to reduce air emissions that come from the use of electricity

January 2018 - The Water Utility Energy Challenge was recently highlighted in the January 2018 issue of Treatment Plant Operator. The article discusses the utilities in the competition, PEPSO software, and LEEM data. In addiiton, it discusses the results of using the software and the challenges with using the software.