Wednesday, May 27, 2009

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.

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