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A Tale of Two Metals: Fe in Groundwater and Pb in Drinking Water

This is a past event.

Monday, October 11, 2021 3 pm

This is a past event.

Environmental Engineering Graduate Seminar

Michelle Scherer, Distinguished Chair and Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Iowa


I have focused much of my career on two metals: Iron (Fe) and lead (Pb). Iron is a major player in groundwater biogeochemistry and lead is one of, if not the most pervasive and damaging drinking water contaminants. Iron has fascinated me for decades. It is present in every computer, car, and most of the built structures we inhabit and is essential for most biological functions, including metabolism, DNA synthesis, and oxygen transport. Fe minerals make up about 5% of the Earth's crust and nearly all of the earth's core. In the critical (soil) zone and atmosphere, iron minerals are abundant as (nano)particles, which profoundly influence the quality of our water, air, and soil. I have spent most of my career studying how these tiny particles accept and donate charge in environmental systems and would like to tell you about some of our findings, particularly with regard to contaminants in groundwater.

Lead has been part of my research only more recently. Drinking water is an important, but often overlooked, source of lead exposure and unlike other contaminants, lead is derived from the distribution system and premise plumbing making it difficult to track and regulate through utility-centric activities. These utility-centric activities, however, do not provide adequate information on lead concentrations in individual homes, schools, or wells and leave an unknown number of children and consumers at risk from drinking water lead. We have been sampling for lead in homes on municipal water, homes on private wells, and schools to start looking at lead in Iowans’ drinking water.


Dr. Michelle Scherer is a University of Iowa Distinguished Chair and Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering where she served as Chair from 2010 to 2017. She is an environmental engineer with expertise in contaminant reactions at the mineral-water interface in soils and sediments, and more recently, lead in drinking water. Her research centers around the redox chemistry of minerals in soils and water, biogeochemical cycles of nutrients and metals, and electron transfer reactions on surfaces. She has served as a member of EPA’s Environmental Engineering Scientific Advisory Board and as Associate Editor of Environmental Science & Technology. Her work has recently been recognized with the 2021 Iowa Regents Award for Faculty Excellence and she has also been recognized with the 2018 SERDP Project of the Year Award, the May Brodbeck Distinguished Achievement Award for Faculty in 2016 and the Malcolm Pirnie/AEESP Frontier in Research Award in 2010. Dr. Scherer holds a BS in Systems Engineering from the University of Virginia (1989), an MS in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of Connecticut (1994), and a PhD (1998) in Environmental Science and Engineering from the OGI School of Science and Engineering.

Recorded Presentation: 

Topic: Environmental Engineering Graduate Seminar
Start Time: Oct 11, 2021 02:45 PM

Meeting Recording:

Access Passcode: ?7WA2equ

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  • Manas Warke
  • Carol Ekstrom
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