Learn more about the Borch group and learn how you can become involved in assisting research: Borch-Lab-Brochure
- Environmental Fate and Degradation of Biocides used in Hydraulic Fracturing
- Impact of Climate Change on Iron and Organic Carbon Chemistry
- Linking Climate Induced Vegetation Changes to Disinfection Byproducts Formation
- Environmental Fate of Pharmaceutical Micropollutants and their Metabolites
- Geochemical Characterization of Baseline Conditions at a Uranium In-situ Recovery (ISR) Mine
- Catalyzed Electrolytic Degradation of Organic Contaminant
- Front Range Air Pollution and Photochemistry Experiment (FRAPPE)
Environmental Fate and Degradation of Biocides used in Hydraulic Fracturing Under Down-hole Conditions
Hydraulic fracturing is a gas and oil extraction process by which gas- and oil-containing rock layers are fractured using a pressurized fluid and sand mixture. In conjuncture with horizontal drilling, this practice is now commonly used to drastically increase the yield of natural gas from drilled wells. The fluid injected into these wells contains many chemicals which include biocides to control growth of sulfate-reducing bacteria. Currently it unknown if these biocides break down, transform, or persist in the high pressures and temperatures that exist underground. Using specialized reaction vessels capable of high temperature and pressure along with analytical techniques, we will attempt to elucidate the down-hole fate of certain biocides.
Impact of Climate Change on Iron & Organic Carbon Chemistry: Molecular to Field Scale
Soil organic matter (SOM) comprises a significant pool of the total global carbon stocks. Elucidating the molecular-level mechanisms involved in SOM stabilization is important for an understanding of larger processes like nutrient cycling, carbon transport, and soil health. In soils, iron minerals control the fate and transport of many C species, nutrients and contaminants via processes such as adsorption/desorption, precipitation/dissolution and oxidation/reduction. Characterization of specific mineral and SOM components is necessary to better understand the controls on these mechanisms.
Linking Climate Induced Vegetation Changes to Disinfection Byproduct Formation and Drinking Water Quality
The recent climate change induced pine beetle outbreak in the Colorado Rocky Mountains is rapidly altering the subalpine forest ecosytems with unknown knock-on consequences. Natural organic matter (NOM) released from these subalpine forests enters headwaters, sourcing drinking water for millions. NOM is a major precursor for the production of toxic disinfection byproducts (DBP’s) during drinking water treatment. Additionally, NOM precursor molecular identity is poorly understood; limiting the ability of drinking water plants to effectively remove them.
Environmental Fate of Selected Pharmaceutical Micropollutants and their Metabolites
Many pharmaceutical compounds are active at low doses, and a large fraction of them can be excreted from the body unaltered after administration or consumption. Some of these compounds reach surface waters through discharges from wastewater treatment plants, where they are removed, but not always completely. This research focuses on the environmental fate of two antiepileptic drugs (carbamazepine and lamotrigine) and two related compounds (10,11-epoxycarbamazepine and lamotrigine-2-N-glucuronide). Together with a group of researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, we are examining their photodegradation in surface waters exposed to sunlight, their biodegradation by bacteria and fungi, their sorption to soils, and the influence of dissolved organic matter type and binding processes on their environmental fate. This project is supported by the United States-Israel Binational Agricultural Research Development (BARD) Fund.
Catalyzed Electrolytic Degradation of Organic Contaminants
Our overarching goal is to extend the functionality of permeable electrolytic barriers for groundwater plumes to chemically transform even highly recalcitrant organic pollutants into less toxic products. A particularly novel piece of this research has been the fabrication & installation of TiO2 pellets between the electrodes as a catalyst. We design and build continuous-flow, electrolytic reactor columns to examine the degradation potential of key emerging contaminants such as carcinogenic 1,4-dioxane, the epileptic drug lamotrigine, and ingredients of concern in frac-fluids. We hypothesize that the novel TiO2 pellets further enhance degradation by catalyzing the “indirect” oxidation processes done by reactive radicals species like ·OH radicals produced from water at the anode. By enhancing degradation kinetics and energy efficiency in this way, we hope to move this technology toward field scale applications soon.
Geochemical Characterization of Baseline Conditions at a Uranium In-Situ Recovery (ISR) Mine
In-situ recovery (ISR) uranium mine restoration is generally based upon a return of the site to baseline conditions. Little scientific information is used to justify utilizing baseline conditions for regulatory compliance and the constituents monitored for compliance have not been evaluated to ensure they are proper indicators for restoration. This study examines, for the first time, the pre-existing aquifer parameters, thereby allowing a complete scientific evaluation of the changes that occur during mining, so that specific recommendations can be made on how best to accomplish restoration of those constituents that most impact human and environmental health.
Front Range Air Pollution and Photochemistry Èxperiment (FRAPPÈ)
The increased detection of nitrogen in the atmosphere over the past decade has raised a variety of concerns including its impact on both human and environmental health in addition to questions regarding its concentration, sources, and sinks. One of the greatest concerns is whether increased nitrogen deposition is occurring in Rocky Mountain National Park due to transport from anthropogenic sources in the area. Increased nitrogen deposition can greatly impact the ecosystem through changes in alpine tundra, increased uptake of nitrogen by trees, faster rates of soil nitrogen cycling, high nitrogen concentrations in lakes and streams, changes in algal composition, and acidification of ground water. Therefore, the focus of this research is to determine the fate of nitrogen in the atmosphere within the Front Range in order to access whether there is increased nitrogen deposition occurring in Rocky Mountain National Park. This research also aims at determining the anthropogenic sources of nitrogen in the Front Range, including oil and natural gas production, agriculture, as well as automobile and industrial emissions. In order to answer these questions, data taken from numerous instruments, including a particle-into-liquid sampler (PILS), aboard the NCAR C-130 research aircraft from the 2014 summer FRAPPÈ campaign will be combined in an effort to improve current understanding.