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Contaminants of Emerging Concern in the Coastal and Estuarine Areas of the U.S. East Coast
Contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) are increasingly detected in groundwater and surface waters including streams, rivers, estuaries and oceans, posing risks to the nation’s drinking waters and aquatic and terrestrial life. This broad class of chemicals and materials is characterized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for their perceived, potential, or demonstrated threat to human health and/or the environment but are often excluded from monitoring programs and are characterized by a lack of published health and/or water quality standards. CECs include, but are not limited to, personal care and pharmaceutical products (PPCP), brominated flame retardants (BFRs), household cleaning products, industrial chemicals (e.g., per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), nanomaterials, and lawn care and agricultural products.
Not surprisingly, as CECs are by definition emerging and not well regulated, no single governmental agency is tasked with managing CECs, and several agencies have programs related to CECs. Previous work as part of this overall project included a scoping exercise that has provided a better understanding of the national and regional landscape with regard to regulating and managing CECs and has identified a framework for Sea Grant strategic involvement in CECs that will not duplicate, but rather complement, ongoing efforts. The objectives of this funding opportunity are supported by the insights from this framework (https://seagrant.uconn.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/1985/2022/05/Sea-Gra...), as well as Congressional direction.
The overall goal of this initiative is to assess the impacts of CECs on ecosystem health, including human health. The ecosystem approach may include CECs input/source, transport/fate, distribution/uptake through food webs, and impacts on exposed animals and humans through linking exposure and effects. Projects must take a watershed approach that recognizes that ecosystems (aquatic food chain), commerce (fishing, aquaculture) and food (food security, food safety) are all very important and linked. Research projects can focus on the following themes:
1. Broad ecosystem/ecological impacts on biota and processes through linking exposure and effects.
2. The prevalence, transport, and biogeochemical transformations of CECs across a watershed or ecosystem, especially those with pathways that involve drinking water, air and/or wastewater;
3. Species of ecological importance, particularly those with strong socio-economic and/or human health dimensions (e.g., forage, subsistence, recreational, or commercial shellfish and/or finfish), as well as invertebrates, reptiles, birds, and marine mammals. The impact of CECs on fish could contribute and inform food (seafood) safety concerns.
Letters of Intent are due September 23, 2022.
This competition is open to researchers in the U.S. East Coast states (ME, NH, VT, MA, RI, CT, NY, NJ, PA, DE, MD, VA, NC, SC, GA and FL) that are served by Sea Grant Programs. All fieldwork must take place within the waterways of this region. A significant part of Sea Grant’s capabilities and place-based engagement in the coastal environments along the East Coast involves partnering with State and local agencies and academic institutions to conduct management-related research. Continued engagement with Sea Grant partners will be an important aspect of this competition, and engagement with Sea Grant programs will be valued in the review process.
Approximately $600,000 will be available to execute research projects to address contaminants of emerging concern. Each application may request up to $150,000.