Markey, Trahan Announce Nearly $2.5 Million in Federal Funding for UMass Lowell Clean Drinking Water Project

Lowell (October 27, 2022) – Today, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) joined Congresswoman Lori Trahan (MA-03), UMass Lowell Chancellor Julie Chen, UMass Lowell professors, and key community partners to announce $2,495,019 in National Science Foundation (NSF) Safe and Clean Communities Grant program funding for UMass Lowell’s “Community Based Approach to Address Contaminants in Drinking Water using Smart Cloud-Connected Electrochemical Sensors” project. 

“The brilliant scientists and engineers at UMass Lowell are working to deliver the clean water resources we need. And in return, we have to deliver the resources they need to undertake that critical task,” said Senator Ed Markey, a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Technology. “UMass Lowell is bringing innovative solutions right into our communities. This grant will enable new community-based water-quality monitoring systems, in partnership with community stakeholders. It will connect people with the information they need to fight for policy solutions and protect their health. You can’t manage what you don’t measure, and this grant will help us measure and manage dangerous pollution in our water.” 

“Growing up in Lowell, I know firsthand how desperately families across the Merrimack Valley need access to safe, clean drinking water. Under the leadership of this talented research team, this UMass Lowell project will help us achieve that reality by getting us the local water contamination data we need to make smart investments in the years ahead,” said Congresswoman Trahan, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “I’m incredibly proud of the work we did with Senator Markey, Chancellor Chen, President Meehan, and members of our community to secure this federal investment. I look forward to seeing the results of this project and working with these remarkable partners to deliver the funding we need – including through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law – to upgrade our water systems.”

UMass Lowell’s innovative and multidisciplinary clean drinking water project involves cooperation by researchers from engineering, social science, and computer science backgrounds. The project will give residents access to a simple, portable, user-friendly device to help monitor the health of their own home’s tap water. These devices will be deployed to households in the Merrimack Valley and – utilizing technology developed to help soldiers test water when deployed – will rapidly and accurately report data on water quality and test for contaminants (ex. lead, arsenic, copper, and PFAS). If poor quality is detected, municipalities will be notified in order to intervene. 

Congresswoman Trahan and Senator Markey both submitted letters of support to NSF in support of the project, which will initially be implemented in Lowell, Lawrence, Dracut, and Andover. However, the tools and processes developed through this project can be replicated and serve as a model for communities beyond Massachusetts.

“We all know how essential it is to have access to clean drinking water,” said UMass Lowell Chancellor Julie Chen. “Yet far too often, as evidenced by multiple water crises across the nation, clean water is not a certainty. It simply cannot be guaranteed if communities don’t make it a priority. I am inspired by Professor Kurup’s ongoing research and his dedication to improving the lives of Lowell residents and those of the greater Merrimack Valley. With the much appreciated support of the National Science Foundation, UMass Lowell will continue to help its community stand out as an exceptional gateway city.”

“We believe that frequent community-engaged monitoring of drinking water quality and appropriate, timely actions will have a profound effect in protecting public health, the environment, and drinking water infrastructure in these communities,” said Professor Pradeep Kurup, Lead Investigator and Chair of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Dept. “Partnerships with our community stakeholders and elected leaders will ensure that our project is sustainable, scalable, and transferable to other communities in our country and the world.”

“This will give city residents access to a simple device to help monitor the health of their own home’s tap water,” said John Macone, Education and Policy Specialist for the Merrimack River Watershed Council. “With a network of hundreds of homes using this tool and reporting their results, the city will have a new and robust layer of watchdogs able to detect possible contaminants across the entire drinking water system."

“We are excited about this project to engage community stakeholders in contributing to safe water quality,” said Commissioner Martin Suuberg of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. “This project will develop tools and processes that can be replicated to involve community stakeholders and allow them to assist in monitoring water quality. MassDEP will continue to collaborate with UMass and other stakeholders on this important initiative.”

“Dr. Kurup’s project will address complex challenges on one of the most basic human rights of our country: the right to clean water,” said Margaret Martonosi, Assistant Director for Computer and Information Science and Engineering at NSF. “Water pollution remains a top environmental concern in our country. With this new NSF funding, Dr. Kurup will engage citizen-scientists and local nonprofits to test water and educate their communities about drinking water quality in ways to effect necessary change.”