Community Based Approach to Address Contaminants in Drinking Water using Smart Cloud-Connected Electrochemical Sensors
Lead PI:
Pradeep Kurup

Clean and safe water is a basic necessity for a community to survive and thrive. However, millions of people are exposed to unsafe levels of drinking water contaminants including toxic and persistent heavy metals and ubiquitous “forever chemicals” such as per– and polyfluroalkyl substances (PFAS). Despite strict regulations, and well-established laboratory methods for detecting these widespread and persistent contaminants, these pollutants sometimes go undetected because of infrequent sampling and testing. In this project engineers, computer scientists, and social scientists from the University of Massachusetts Lowell will work closely with community stakeholders (residents, neighborhood groups, nonprofits, drinking water utilities, and regulators) to pilot a smart Internet of Things (IoT) enabled water-quality monitoring and alert system in several socio-economically diverse communities of Massachusetts. Given that drinking water contamination and exposure occurs disproportionately in economically and racially disadvantaged communities with older infrastructure, the proposed technology will empower underprivileged groups to use the data to advocate for remediation efforts. The transdisciplinary sociotechnical systems approach to implement a smart community engaged water-quality monitoring and alert system will be a new paradigm for addressing similar large scale societal and infrastructural problems.

In this SCC project, the investigators will (1) deploy citizen-scientist-operated electrochemical electronic tongue (E-Tongue) devices for rapid, onsite, water quality testing of contaminants such as lead and arsenic, (2) co-design with community stakeholders a user-friendly app and cloud-computing platform for data analysis, and (3) foster shared learning and collaboration among community stakeholders to build social cohesion and trust in water testing technologies and the local authorities. Furthermore, this work will develop spatiotemporal machine learning algorithms and a cloud-computing platform that will take the responses from the individual E-Tongue devices and produce predictions of contaminant type, concentration, probable source, and extent of the contamination. This information will be used to quickly notify the public health authorities for intervention and alert affected residents to take appropriate actions. Through the design, development, and testing of a smart sensing and cloud-computing system, the proposed transformative research will contribute to the fundamental understanding and practical design of novel spatiotemporal analytics, mobile computing, and machine learning techniques for real-time water contaminant threat detection and early warning systems. The research will also advance our knowledge and understanding of the technologies, training, and relationships required to facilitate a sustainable, scalable sensor platform for water quality testing and increase awareness and social trust in water testing technologies and local authorities.

Pradeep Kurup
Pradeep Kurup graduated in 1985, with a B.Tech. in Civil Engineering from the University of Kerala, India. He received his M.Tech. in Civil Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology - Madras (1987). He holds a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering (1993) from Louisiana State University (LSU). Subsequent to his doctoral research he worked as a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Civil Engineering at LSU. In 1994 he joined Louisiana Transportation Research Center (LTRC/LSU) as a Research Associate IV. He was soon promoted to Research Associate V, and nominated to the Graduate Faculty in the Department of Civil Engineering at LSU (1996). In 1997, Kurup joined the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Massachusetts Lowell as an Assistant Professor. He was tenured and promoted to an Associate Professor in 2001, and subsequently promoted to a Full Professor in 2005. Kurup is the recipient of the prestigious CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation (1999-2003), for his integrated research and education plan on developing AInnovative Technologies for Expedited Site Characterization in the New Millennium He was also awarded the 1999 CERF Career Development Award by the Civil Engineering Research Foundation (CERF, ASCE). Kurup's research has been supported by Federal & State agencies (National Science Foundation, Federal Highway Administration, National Research Council, Louisiana Department of Transportation). He has developed collaborations with industry, academia and state agencies (Geoprobe Systems Inc., Fugro Engineers Inc., Netherlands & USA, SAGE Engineering, Norwegian Geotechnical Institute, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, University of Federal Vicosa, Brazil; Louisiana Transportation Research Center & Louisiana State University, Massachusetts Highway Department and Lowell High School). Kurup's area of specialization is geotechnical engineering. He has vast expertise in advanced experimental techniques (laboratory and in-situ) and in analytical modeling (constitutive modeling, finite element analysis, and artificial neural networks). He is also specialized in instrumentation & data acquisition for geotechnical systems and has directed and assisted in several in situ testing projects. He has done extensive research in the areas of site characterization & monitoring, application of novel sensing technology to geotechnical & geo-environmental engineering, calibration chamber testing, soil-structure interaction, and "Seeing-Ahead Techniques" for trenchless technologies. Kurup has published his research contributions in several peer reviewed journals and noteworthy conferences proceedings. He has also made numerous presentations at national/international conferences & symposiums. Kurup is an active member in several professional societies in the academic field including the American Society of Civil Engineers, American Society for Testing and Materials, American Society for Engineering Education, International Society of Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering, Boston Society of Civil Engineers, Massachusetts Teachers Association, United States Universities Council on Geotechnical Engineering Research, International Association for Computer Methods and Advances in Geomechanics, Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, Indian Geotechnical Society, and the Institution of Engineers (India). Pradeep Kurup is a registered Professional Engineer in the state of Louisiana.
Performance Period: 10/01/2022 - 09/30/2026
Institution: University of Massachusetts Lowell
Award Number: 2230180