Walter J. Weber, Jr. AEESP Frontier in Research Award

Named in honor of Professor Walter J. Weber, Jr. for Advancing the Environmental Engineering And Science Field through Recognized Leadership And Pioneering Efforts in A New and Innovative Research Area.

Dr. Richardson has had a transformative impact on the field of disinfection byproducts. Her research has shifted the focus of the field from the regulated trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids to an array of novel disinfection byproducts exhibiting higher toxicity than those currently regulated. Dr. Richardson’s work was transformative in two ways. First, her work has opened the eyes of researchers to recognize the rich array of byproducts beyond the trihalomethanes. Dr. Richardson has been the foremost expert in the world on the application of analytical chemistry to the characterization of byproducts of water disinfection. The diverse nature of the natural organic matter precursors in drinking water supplies results in the production of a wide array of halogenated byproducts when these waters are chlorinated. Over 700 byproducts have been identified to date, and Dr. Richardson has been responsible for identifying a significant fraction of these. Second, Dr. Richardson has been at the forefront of transforming the DBP field into a truly interdisciplinary field. The field involves collaborations between chemists, engineers , toxicologists, and epidemiologists. Yet each sub-field had largely operated independently. While each might cite research from the other sub-fields as justification for their research in the introductions to publications, they each attended different meetings and rarely collaborated closely. Dr. Richardson was one of the first chemists to work closely with toxicologists to quantify the toxic potency of the novel disinfection byproducts she was identifying in order to assess their contributions to the toxicity of disinfected waters relative to trihalomethanes. She organized the first Gordon Research Conference on Drinking Water Disinfection Byproducts in 2006, bringing together chemists, engineers, toxicologists, epidemiologists and regulators. This has become the pre-eminent conference in the DBP field, and has resulted in truly cross-disciplinary research.

Recipient: 
Susan D. Richardson, University of South Carolina
Year of award: 
2021