Cornell University

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Applied Water Research in NYS: Removing Emerging Contaminants from Wastewater Using Electron Beam

Thursday, March 2, 2023 at 1:00pm to 2:15pm

Virtual Event

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Every year, the New York State Water Resources Institute (NYSWRI) at Cornell supports research that addresses critical water resource problems in New York State and the nation. The seminar will focus on ways in which robust science can support and influence on-ground water management and policy outcomes, and center collaborative and interdisciplinary work between academics, water resource scientists, educators, managers, and policymakers.


Wastewater from municipal and industrial sources contains thousands of compounds, many of which cannot be removed using common treatment approaches. This leads to the release of persistent and potentially toxic chemicals into the environment, e.g. pharmaceuticals, pesticides, plasticizers, surfactants, flame retardants, corrosion inhibitors. A water treatment method based on electron beam irradiation, developed decades ago, is promising in solving this issue. Pilot wastewater treatment plants utilizing this technology safely and successfully operate in several countries. In this method, radiolysis of water by high energy electrons leads to the formation of reactive intermediates capable of breaking down most organic molecules. Its applicability has been studied using individual pollutants but the overall efficiency in a complex wastewater matrix has not been demonstrated. We propose to use an untargeted approach based on high-resolution mass spectrometry to simultaneously monitor degradation of thousands of compounds in wastewater. Our goal is to find conditions, such as irradiation dose, that lead to complete degradation of most organic compounds in wastewater. We also plan to identify degradation products for several emerging contaminants to determine if they are easily biodegradable and less toxic than the parent compounds. We will also engage in outreach activities focusing on environmental justice.


Dilara Turkel Agacik is a second-year PhD student in the Chemistry department at Suny-ESF. Her major focus is polymer chemistry. She is currently researching the effectiveness of electron beam irradiation in the degradation of emerging contaminants in wastewater.

Ryan Elliott works as the Western Great Lakes Watershed Coordinator for the NYSDEC and WRI. Ryan earned a B.S. in Environmental Studies from Binghamton University and an M.S. in Lake Management from SUNY College at Oneonta.  Ryan has a variety of experiences that make him well-suited for the interdisciplinary nature of his job.  Prior to joining the WRI team, Ryan worked with the Catskill and Western New York Partnerships for Regional Invasive Species Management, NYSDEC, and private environmental consulting firms.


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Event Type

Research, Seminar, Presentation


Biological and Environmental Engineering, Sustainability

University Themes

Research, Sustainability, Cornell in New York State



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Rewa Phansalkar

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Dilara Turkel Agacik

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