Saturday, May 30, 2009

Start of Arsenic Research

Author: Duncan Peabody

Yesterday (Friday) we began work on the first part of our research. As I mentioned in my last blog it will focus on the effects of Calcium on the sorption of arsenic onto iron oxide-coated sand. We are working with Valentine, a Phd student from Rwanda. Valentine introduced us to a modeling software called PhreeQC. The software allows you to input all of the parameters of your various solutions and then tells you what species will exist when you mix the solutions and if there will be any precipitates. Basically the software does all of the things I learned in Aquatic Chemistry, except faster and better.

We have a long weekend this week so hopefully the momentum we've generated will carry over to tuesday. Tuesday we will hopefully be able to get trained on the Atomic Absorption Spectrometer so that we can analyze our samples. We will also begin preparation for our experiments. Wednesday we will run the experiments, sampling every two hours for ten hours and then again after 24 hours. Thursday and Friday we analyze the samples and see what we came up with. So that's the timeline for our first experiment. It doesn't allow much time for errors so we'll see how much it has changed come Thursday of next week.

I officially integrated into the Dutch culture this week with the purchase of a bike (above). Her name is Pegasus and she's purple. I'm going to go take her out for a spin now.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Netherlands Water Partnership

Author: Robert Bair

What a week! The whole group has been kept busy with meeting after meeting. So much information has been dumped on me that it might take me the whole weekend to reflect on it.

As far as my research goes, all of the details have been set in place. My mentors are now Dr. Diederik Rousseau and Dr. Roel Meulepas. I will be working on zinc and lead uptake and absorption by Lemna gibba (duckweed). I find this research to be particularly relevant for wastewater treatment in developing countries as it is a low-energy and low-cost treatment solution. The removal of zinc is useful for treating the effluent of tanneries, which in many developing countries goes back into the environment untreated. Once I am done with the equipment training, I should be ready to start the experiments.

Until the experiments start I have plenty to think about. This week has been very full of interesting meetings and field trips (most of which have been described in the previous blog entries). Yesterday we went and visited the Netherlands Water Partnership (NWP) in Den Haag. The NWP is an consortium of different NGOs, Private businesses and Governmental Programs that all deal with water and sanitation. Their primary focus is to consolidate the information and expertise of their members and distribute that information to countries abroad. In this way, many of the technological advances that the Netherlands have made in the water sector are made available to even the poorest of countries. When looking at the Millennium development goals, the NWP seems like a incarnation of Goal 8, Target 5 (Which is to build global partnerships which make new technology available to developing countries).

While at the water house a representative from AKVO gave us a short presentation. AKVO is an NGO that uses some of the newest advances in technology to connect donors in developed countries to agencies working in developing countries on water and sanitation projects. On their website ( a donor can find a brief description of the various projects that need funding. Immediately the donor can channel money to the project via paypal. Once a project is funded, the program implementers can record their progress on cell phone cameras and post it online. In this way the donor can measure progress and really feel connected to the project. This set up is particularly beneficial for small and medium sized organizations that often find it very hard to find international donors.

I am always happy to hear how advances in technology are changing the way NGOs work. Technology is definitely making it easier to maintain transparency within an organization. I don’t think this model is flawless, but it is certainly a step in the right direction.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Delta Works

Author: Hong Ting (Sam) Chiu

We joined the Florida delegations for another field trips. The Delta Works was the primary topic for today. First of all, we visited the Oosterschelde storm surge barrier. Originally, it was designed to be a dam; however, after weighting on the environmental issues, the sluice-gate-type doors were then picked to be the final design. The view of Oosterschelde is as overwhelmed as the Maeslantkering.

The tour to the Oosterschelde.

Simple statics :)

The Oosterschelde.

The Oosterschelde.

The pile of Oosterschelde.
The thin red line is the water level during the 1953's disaster.
It was really high (4.2 meter about NAP).

The gate of Oosterschelde.

After that, we went to a few construction sites of the Zeeland's "weak links." The weak link is the area which the system no longer have the strength to stand up the requirement. Therefore, the government has to improve the current dikes and dunes for keeping its inhabitants safe. It seemed the dike was nothing when we were driving on it; however, when we stepped outside and looked at it, it was another story.

The dike.

The dike.

This beach was man-made.

Lastly, we ended our day with a dinner-presentation with Ms. Wilma Brouwer, member of the Water Board Zeeuwse Eilanden and responsible for International Affairs. She presented the structure and the function of the water board.

The dinner-presentation.

Ms. Wilma Brouwer from the Water Board Zeeuwse Eilanden.

Thank you speech from Mr. Stan Bronson (Florida Earth Foundation).

Thank you speech from Dr. Yeh (University of South Florida).

I have read about the history, the infrastructures, and the water defense systems of the Netherlands; however, this is the first time to see the real things. This two-day tour has enhanced and gone beyond the knowledge from the books and the articles. The first hand experience was just amazing, especially with these massive infrastructure. The Dutch has firmly held their "never again" belief and do whatever they can to prevent the disaster from happening. They look far ahead into future and don't doubt the bullets. In addition to their expertise on the water defense systems, we should also learn about their attitude and spirit.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Delta Works

Author: Wendy Mussoline

This week we joined a team of water managers for the State of Florida to visit various sites that represent the infrastructure necessary to keep Holland dry. The team consisted of environmental professionals representing the South Florida Water Management District, US Army Corps of Engineers, private law firms and consulting firms, and the Florida Earth Foundation. The goal of the Florida-Holland connection is to create a unique collaboration between the State of Florida and the Netherlands that will identify and prioritize climate-driven water challenges that are common to both areas and develop solutions together. The program was initiated in response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.

The focus of our site visits over the last couple days involved “The Delta Works”, which are a number of constructions that were built between 1950 and 1997 in the southwest of the Netherlands to protect the land from the sea. The works consist of dams, sluices, locks,
dikes, and storm surge barriers. Although floods have reoccurred in the Netherlands since the earliest record of 838 AD and approximately every 50 to 100 years thereafter, the construction of the Delta Works was PRIMARILY motivated by the flood of 1953. A horrendous storm caused the North Sea to surge over 15 feet above sea level and there were nearly 2,000 victims in Holland. The flood occurred in the night and thus no warning was given. The Delta Works project is one of the most extensive engineering projects in the world with over 10,250 miles of dikes and 300 structures.

The first structure we visited was the Maeslantkering in Rotterdam – the largest moving structure on earth. After six years of construction, 450 million euros and using the largest ball joint ever built (10m in diameter), the storm surge barrier was completed in 1997. It is basically a gate located in the main waterway of the port that opens and closes based on the height of the North Sea. It closes when the sea is predicted to rise 3 meters above sea level, which is predicted to occur about every 10 years. The structure was massive and it really is difficult to explain or capture in a picture.

Today, we visited the most extensive storm surge barrier known as the Oosterschelde (Eastern Scheldt)'s basically a series of giant pillars that connect a flood gate that remains open unless the sea level rises to 3 meters above sea level. It extends approximately 8 km across a deep channel (40 m deep)....the reason they choose the keep the dam open was to preserve the large estuary that exists behind the dam. Other projects we visited were areas along the coastline that were in the process of being renourished (adding more sand to the dunes and reinforcing dikes with huge mounds of asphalt).
The main impression that I took away from these visits is that the Dutch are DETERMINED to keep out the sea! Their Delta projects are designed to withstand a 1 in 4000 yr storm. This project is a priority for them to preserve their land and livelihood. Climate change is at the forefront of their minds and they are acting NOW for the FUTURE...The $$$ figures are enormous...hundreds of BILLIONS of dollars...the magnitude is beyond my comprehension. But in speaking with the representatives from the local water boards, the people trust that their government will protect them...thus, they are willing to pay the taxes for such projects. I respect the dedication and determination of this people to remain focused on this task until it is completed. I hope that the group from Florida (which also had several delegates that are currenly working on the storm surge barriers for Louisiana) will integrate these perspectives into their roles as water managers in the States.

The Dutch hospitality was overwhelming...every tour guide that we encountered was so eager to share their knowledge and experiences with us. They hosted us graciously and fed us plentifully! It has been such a wonderful experience to join the group this week and tour these remarkable projects in the Netherlands. In the Netherlands, the tides are not only controlled by the moon and the sun, but by man as well!

Crash Course in Water Management

Author: Michael Gerdjikian

It's now been a week after landing in the Netherlands. I can honestly say it's been an exciting yet exhausting week. Every day (except the quiet Sunday), we've gone on another interesting adventure. The first half of the week, we've half-blindly traveled through nearby towns to visit tourist attractions and museums. The past few days, however, have been unlike anything I expected to experience during my stay here. We had the privelege of traveling with some other Floridians from the Florida Earth Foundation during some VIP tours. Starting this past Monday, we had an extremely informative presentation by Professor Bart Schultz about the history and advancement of Holland's knowledge on hydrology. On Tuesday, after a heavy storm, we visited the site of the Maasvlakte 2 project where the Port of Rotterdam plans on expanding their port to possibly reclaim their position as the largest port in Europe. Then, after a presentation on the environmental concerns of an expanding country, we visited the Rotterdam Library and walked along their "green roof." After that, we went to the incredible Maeslantkering structure in Hoek van Holland. It was a very busy day. After another night of not sleeping, it was time to start another adventure. We went to the Oosterschelde site and we were given a presentation on the "Delta Works" project. We then had the opportunity to have a guide take us within the structure and explain how the surge barrier was built. It is a massive structure that can only be appreciated when seen from up close. Even so, it's a lot more massive than it seems. After learning so much about the Dutch history and what it's taken to protect its people in the past, we traveled nearby consturction sites to see what it's going to take to protect the people in the future. In certain places along the coastline, new dykes and dunes are being constructed to ensure that they can handle storms that occur roughly every one in four thousand years. The storm that flooded Holland and caused so much destruction that it fueled the Delta Works project was a storm that occurs roughly once every two-hundred and fifty years. After experiencing past disasters and considering the increase in extreme weather around the world due to global warming, the Dutch are not playing it safe. During these site visits the past few days, I've met some really amazing people that just have so much insight to offer. Before coming here, I could not have imagined standing so close to the largest moving structure in the world (Maeslantkering) that I could climb on top of it. And everything has happened so quickly back to back that I'm still trying to soak it all in. But for now, I must attempt to get some sleep because the week is still not over yet and it will be another early morning.

Research topic for Duncan and Sam, Field Trips

Author: Duncan Peabody

. Yeh, Sam, and I met with Dr. Branislav Petrusevski and his Phd student Valentine. We decided to narrow our research to the effects of Calcium on the adsorption of Arsenic onto iron oxide-coated sand. We all agreed that we wanted to produce something useful for Valentine's research and with only 10 weeks (now 9) we had to keep the research goal focused and achievable. Calcium has been shown in some studies to aid the sorption of Arsenic to iron oxides however the full extent of its effects aren't yet clear. This is pretty exciting because we will have the opportunity to produce some unique results in the coming months.

We won't officially begin work until Friday because we've been touring around the Netherlands for the past few days, experiencing some of the massive engineering projects undertaken by the Dutch to keep their country from becoming part of the North Sea. The Dutch appear to be relatively fearless is making huge alterations to the land and sea. Part of me wants to condemn them for their complete disregard for environmental sustainability but I'm just too awestruck by the shear size and audacity of the projects. Ecosystem destruction seems to be a secondary concern of Dutch engineers; worth mentioning but nothing to dwell upon. But perhaps it is a bit early for me to begin making massive generalizations like that.

We had a delicious dinner tonight and heard a talk from the member of the Zeeland Water Board, called waterschap here. I won't begin to try to explain the entire Dutch water system but the history of the water boards is pretty interesting. Polders are an area of land outlined by dikes and dunes which surround a network of canals. Dikes and dunes protect the land inside from flooding since the land is below sea level. The operation of the canal system requires the cooperation of each landowner in the polder. So water boards were developed to govern the operation and maintenance of the polders (this includes maintaining water levels, water quality, and water quantity). The water boards are independent of the national or provincial governments. They can decide their own taxes and water regulations. To make along story short, mergers of water boards since 1850 have shrunk the number from 3,500 to only 26 (and still shrinking). I asked a Dutch engineer if it worried him that their "decentralized"water system was becoming more and more centralized. His response was that they should do away with water boards altogether and put water management under the control of the provincial governements. I don't know how many of the Dutch he speaks for, but he seemed to think that water boards were kept around only because they've been around for so long, but that they are losing their effectiveness.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Maasvlakte 2, Rotterdam Climate Proof, and Maeslantkering Projects

Today, we joined the Florida delegations to visit Rotterdam for a better understanding in Maasvlakte 2, Rotterdam Climate Proof, and Maeslantkering project.

It's time for a group photo in front of UNESCO-IHE.
(L to R: Dr. Yeh, Wendy, Michael, Dipesh, Robert, me, and Duncan)

Waiting to get on the tour bus.
(The Florida delegations)

Our first stop was Maasvlakte 2. Because of the heavy rain storm and rush hour, the roads to the Rotterdam were jammed. Therefore, we needed to take a ferry to get across the river. At first, I thought that we have to get out the bus and switch to the ferry; however, it wasn't like that. Instead, it was the BUS on the ferry. That's pretty interesting.

The bus was on the ferry to get across.

We finally arrived the Maasvlakte 2 after some hours. Maasvlakte 2 is an extension just off the current Maasvlakte and is being built in phase. The project plan is to reclaim about 2000 hectares (about 4950 acres) of land from the North Sea. This will increase the current port and industrial area by 20%, measured in hectares. The estimated sand required to compete the 2013 phase is about 240 million cubic meters of sand.

At this time, we can only vaugely see part of the outline; however, by 2013, it shall be competed the first major phase of the project and the new harbor shall be ready to use. This new construction make Rotterdam back to the World's busiest port. The size, the goals, and the complexity of this project make me exclaim.

Maasvlakte 2 Information Center.

The display.

What Maasvlakte will look like.

The project plans to reclaim the land highlighted in orange.

The next stop after Maasvlakte 2 was the Rotterdam Information Center. We received a presentation on "Rotterdam Climate Proof (RCP)" program. This is an adaptation program to anticipate on climate change. They are trying to make Rotterdam be "climate proof." The project has 3 branches: knowledge, action, and marketing. The primary action to be taken are the Waterplan 2 Rotterdam, green roofs, water plazas, floating city, etc. I, personally, quite like the green roofs and water plazas idea, which can engage the community and inhabitants into part of the project. We even stopped by the Rotterdam Library for its green roofs.

Rotterdam Climate Proof Presentation.

The green roofs.

The actual green roofs at the Rotterdam Library.

The last stop of the day is Maeslantkering, which is also the most exciting part of the day. Maeslantkering is a storm surge barrier gate and is the largest man-made moving structure. If I am asked to describe the Maeslantkering, it would be "innovative" and "massive." I am amazed by the details of this barrier. The length of its arm is the same height as the Eiffel Tower, but it has twice as many of steel; the ball joint diameter is 10 meter (about 32 feet); the barrier closes automatically when the computer detected the need; and much more.

Maeslantkering model.

The arms.

The one on the other side.

How small are humans...

Each weld took about 160 man-hours for those top-class welders.

The gate.

The truss pipe in real scale.

Today, I am completely impressed by the scale of the project, the innvoation, and the foresight on the future problems.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Florida Delegations' Exposure Course

Author: Hong Ting (Sam) Chiu

The Florida-Holland Connection team arrived the Netherlands for the Water Management in the Netherlands exposure course. These Florida delegations are here to learn how the Dutch manage their water; to learn how they face the problem of climate change; to compare the Dutch challenges with Florida's; and to observe the Dutch minds and approaches.

We joined them this morning for the introduction and the presentation. Professor Bart Schultz presented on "Water Management and Flood Protection in the Netherlands". He talked about the geographic situation of the Netherlands, the strategies of water management, and the structure of the Water Boards. It was informative and I believed that it has provided a strong background on the water management in the Netherlands.

The Florida delegations.

The Florida delegations.

Robert and Dipesh at the presentation.

Professor Schultz's presentation.

The Florida delegations visited the Ministry in Den Hagg. We were unable to join them because we had schedule a lab safety training with Mr. Fred Kruis, the Head of the UNESCO-IHE Lab, and meetings with our UNESCO-IHE mentors for topic discussion. However, we will join them on Tuesday and Wednesday (May 26-27) for their field trip. I cannot wait to see the Maeslantkering, which is the largest man-made moving structure, and the Oosterschelde Storm Surge Barrier.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A Day of Rest

Author: Wendy Mussoline

After 12 hours of sleep, I think I have finally overcome my jetlag. So today was a day that we had no former engagements and we were able to arrange our own schedule. I decided to ride my bike down to the sports complex to run a few laps in an attempt to stay in shape over the summer. I found plenty of lush green soccer fields with a local soccer game and many on-lookers. I watched for a bit and enjoyed the local fare.

The adventure for the day was my bikeride to Den Haag, which is approximately 10 km (4.2 mi) northwest of Delft. Bikepaths are very well marked and signs are generally posted along the way to help guide you in the right direction. I was thankful for the signs as I had no map with me. Along the way, I managed to take a few excursions through some parks laced with water throughout. Water is literally everywhere throughout Holland...the canals run through the centers of the city and restaurants just place floating docks outside for extra seating.

I was thankful that the sun was not going to set until 9:45 PM this evening. My trip to Den Haag was enjoyable, but it was quite a challenge to find my way home. At one point, I was riding in one direction and saw the sign to Delft that pointed the exact opposite direction...the story of my life. Thankfully, I was redirected by the signs (several times) and found my way home before sunset. I stopped in local markets for fresh fruit and talked to people gathering outside on the sidewalks and in the parks. The day was so beautiful, I think everyone was outside!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Meetings & Tour At UNESCO-IHE

Author: Hong Ting (Sam) Chiu

After a day off, we are back on track to the real work. We scheduled some meetings and tour at UNESCO-IHE in hope to further refine our research topics and familiar ourselves around the research environment.

Dipesh, Andrew, and Dr. Yeh had a meeting at UNESCO-IHE.

Dr. Yeh, Duncan, and I met with Dr. Petrusevski and Valentine, Dr. Petrusevski's PhD student. We considered the topics to revolve around the removal of heavy metals (such as arsenic, copper, chromium, etc.) in water with the use of iron-oxide-coated sand. Dr. Petrusevski explained that the iron-oxide-coated sand is generated as a "waste" at the water treatment in the Netherlands; this material could be recovered and used as the adsorptive materials in heavy metals removal. Our experiments could be carried out in the batch experiment and the rapid column test. However, due to time constraint, we might limit the scope of the topic to a specific metal, a specific parameter (such as pH, the effect of adsorption with the present of other metals, the variation of adsorptive materials, etc.), and a specific experimental method (either the batch or the column). Overall, I would say this is the most productive meeting we have thus far on the topic.

Group picture.
(L to R: Dr. Petrusevski, Valentine, me, and Duncan).

The iron-oxide-coated sand.

Andrew, Dr. Amy's PhD student, also provided a tour around the lab. We are all amused when he told us that they have dedicated lab staff to maintain and calibrate the equipments. I think USF needs to hire some lab staff too :P

Andrew showed us around the lab.

Large scale column rack.

AA machine.


After all the meetings and tour, I decided to go around the Delft on my own. The town is just too pretty to miss.

Street performers.

Horse-drawn ride.

The theater.

Central market.

Legermuseum (Army museum).
There was an error in this gadget