News and Announcements

  • News outlet logo for candgnews.com
    Product developed by Wayne State professor touted to be safer for marine life
    After spending weeks and months in the water, the bottom of a boat can become a slimy mess, as algae and other marine organisms coat the hull. Biofouling, the accumulation of algae, barnacles and other marine organisms on underwater surfaces like the hulls of boats and ships, can slow down vessels and increase fuel consumption by as much as 40%, at a cost of $36 billion for the global shipping industry. It costs recreational boaters more in fuel, as well, because of the drag added to the boat. That’s why many boaters — recreational owners and commercial shippers — use a bottom paint containing an anti-foulant. More than 90% of current anti-foulants in the market rely on copper as a biocide, however. The heavy metal is designed to leach out of the paint while it is in the water, creating a toxic environment to deter wildlife from attaching to the hull, but it is also an endocrine disrupter that affects the life cycles of fish, according to Sheu-Jane Gallagher, one of the three co-founders and general manager of Repela Tech, a startup out of Wayne State University. A new technology developed in a lab at Wayne State University is being used in an attempt to change that, however. “Repela is all about sustainability, and what we are developing is a sustainable technology for boaters,” Gallagher said. Zhiqiang Cao, Ph.D., a professor of chemical engineering and materials science in Wayne State University’s College of Engineering, invented the underlying technology for the product and approached Gallagher and Edward Kim, the third co-founder of the company, about promoting and marketing marine applications for the technology.
  • News outlet logo for monroenews.com
    Great Lakes algae threaten air quality
    Toxins from harmful algal blooms, such as those looming in Lake Erie off Monroe County shores, are well-known as water polluters, but now researchers are looking at how they harm Great Lakes air. And that could have implications for human health, they say. Algae blooms occur because of a warming climate and nitrogen and phosphorus runoff from activities like agriculture, said Judy Westrick, a chemistry professor at Wayne State University. In the Great Lakes region, algal blooms occur in inland lakes and the western basin of Lake Erie, primarily in shallow water, Westrick said. Research focuses on water quality because of observations, Westrick said. When people became sick after swimming in toxic water, scientists began researching it. However, now that water quality is better understood, scientists are branching out into understanding algae toxins and air, Westrick said. “You’re probably going to see, in probably the next year, like 100 studies on aerosol,” Westrick said. “Aerosol has become a big thing because of a couple of factors.” Those factors are part of climate change, she said. For example, heavy rainfall can cause waves and break up harmful algae, releasing particles that could be toxic in the air. The expert consensus is algae blooms will get worse as climate change and runoff worsen, Westrick said. Algae essentially eat nitrogen and phosphorus nutrients from agricultural runoff. “If you take care of the nutrients and you don’t have the nutrient load, then then they won’t get worse, but if everything stayed the same, the nutrient load, and it just gets warmer, we expect them to go longer,” Westrick said.
  • News outlet logo for bridgemi.com
    Understanding why Detroit floods and why it keeps happening
    Thousands of Detroit residents, businesses, churches, nonprofits, libraries and others will likely need months to recover from the disastrous flooding caused by record rainfall two weeks ago and aging water infrastructure. It was the second time a so-called 100-year rain event occurred in the past decade. “We clearly can’t go on like this,” said William Shuster, chair of Wayne State University’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Department. “The infrastructure was built for a different time and place, and that’s changed. We are not keeping up.” This survey, which should be released by the end of July by Wayne State University and the University of Michigan-Dearborn, shows which parts of the city — from Jefferson Chalmers, on the east side, to Aviation Subdivision on the west — have dealt with recurrent flooding since 2012. Among 4,667 Detroit households surveyed between 2012 and 2020, 46 percent have dealt with flooding. There is a map showing which areas are more at risk of flooding — and it is strikingly similar to the current maps released by the City showing the hardest hit areas in the current disaster. The map doesn’t name neighborhoods, but shows clusters of streets on the west side, the northeast and lower east side that are prone to flooding. The report describes the physical and emotional impact many residents deal with long after the water recedes. There’s also a resource guide for various agencies that can provide assistance. “It’s nobody’s fault in particular; we have a huge and expanding service area,” said Wayne State’s Shuster. “Regional cooperation is the way forward. Let’s focus on that opportunity. “This is an equal opportunity disruptor, destroyer of health, property and morale.”
  • News outlet logo for washingtonpost.com
    Opinion: Flooding and wreckage in Detroit expose the city’s climate vulnerability
    For more than two weeks, convoys of garbage trucks have slowly crept through neighborhoods throughout Detroit, picking up damaged pool tables, soggy mattresses and endless boxes of irreplaceable memorabilia ruined by the June 25 flood caused by heavy rain. In kitchens and dens, distressed residents are gathering what paperwork wasn’t ruined to submit to the city, state and the Federal Emergency Management Agency in hopes of compensation. It was the second devastating flood to sweep the city in the last seven years. Much attention has been given to the potential for climate-change-driven devastation in coastal cities from rising seas, but with storms intensifying, inadequate city infrastructure is being exposed, as seen in New York over the past week. The damage in Detroit last month was particularly upsetting because the city has made considerable progress in rebounding from its dilapidated nadir in 2013 as the biggest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. The flood, and the infuriatingly slow effort to collect the wreckage it left behind, exposed the city’s physical fragility and stirred memories of the bleak, bad old days. Bill Shuster, professor and chair of the department of environmental science at Wayne State University, thinks urban resources to deal with climate change simply aren’t keeping up with the threat. “The burden just keeps getting larger and larger each time,” he said on the public radio program “Detroit Today.” “It’s really about social and political will to make sure resources are available.”
  • News outlet logo for detroitnews.com
    Researchers study how algal bloom toxins may harm Great Lakes air
    Toxins from harmful algal blooms are well-known as water polluters, but now researchers are looking at how they harm Great Lakes air. Algae blooms occur because of a warming climate and nitrogen and phosphorus runoff from activities like agriculture, said Judy Westrick, a chemistry professor at Wayne State University. In the Great Lakes region, algal blooms occur in inland lakes and the western basin of Lake Erie, primarily in shallow water, Westrick said. Research focuses on water quality because of observations, she said. When people became sick after swimming in toxic water, scientists began researching it. However, now that water quality is better understood, scientists are branching out into understanding algae toxins and air, Westrick said. “You’re probably going to see, in probably the next year, like 100 studies on aerosol. Aerosol has become a big thing because of a couple of factors.” The factors are part of climate change, she said. For example, heavy rainfall can cause waves and break up harmful algae, releasing particles that could be toxic in the air. The expert consensus is algae blooms will get worse as climate change and runoff worsen, Westrick said. Algae essentially eat nitrogen and phosphorus nutrients from agricultural runoff. “If you take care of the nutrients and you don’t have the nutrient load, then then they won’t get worse, but if everything stayed the same, the nutrient load, and it just gets warmer, we expect them to go longer,” Westrick said.
  • News outlet logo for detroitnews.com
    Matiss Kivlenieks' death illustrates one of three ways that fireworks can kill
    The death of an NHL goalie in a fireworks accident Sunday illustrates the powerful impact mortar-style pyrotechnics can have on the human body, medical and bioengineering experts said Tuesday. Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Matiss Kivlenieks, 24, died Sunday at the home of his position coach, former Red Wing Manny Legace, during a July 4 party. Police initially believed he may have slipped exiting a hot tub, but a caller to 911 said he was hit in the chest by a firework, recordings released Tuesday show. The initial report led police to believe Kivlenieks died of a head injury. Dragovic said Tuesday there was no indication of any head trauma. After a direct impact to the chest, it's not surprising that Kivlenieks didn't survive, said professor Cynthia Bir, chair of biomedical engineering at Wayne State University, whose research focuses on human injury tolerances. "It's more than a blast injury, he had blunt trauma," Bir said. "With his injury, it was a freak accident. This is one of the dangers that can occur with fireworks." The incident is a reminder of the varied risks of fireworks, Bir said. Most fireworks accident victims walk away with burns, she said, and that's why certain levels of fireworks are illegal, she said. "Even people who are trained to compose firework displays face the risks of injuries. It's not something that should be taken lightly," Bir said. "I think they're readily available, but I don't think people truly understand the risks."
  • News outlet logo for freep.com
    It's deja vu all over again for metro Detroit flood victims despite past promises
    Repeated flooding has plagued homeowners in cities across the region in recent years, with Detroit, the Grosse Pointes and Dearborn getting hit hardest in last weekend's latest round. After each event, government officials offer similar reasonings for the breakdowns: historic rainfall stressed aging infrastructure beyond its capacity. Investigations are launched, lawsuits filed and promises are made. But this time some are hopeful it’s a wake-up call that will force solutions that stick. "Everybody is exhausted," said William Shuster, chair of Wayne State University's Civil and Environmental Engineering Department and an expert in storm and wastewater management who himself lost a vehicle to the weekend flooding. "This is an equal opportunity disruptor, destroyer of health, property and morale." Shuster said the extreme rainfall was exacerbated by already saturated soil Friday night. In southeastern Michigan, combined sewer systems are the norm, which means storm runoff combines with sewage, often overwhelming water treatment facilities in periods of heavy rain. "It’s hard to tell if the (all) pumps were operating if it would have made a difference," Shuster said. "What we have are unpredictable rainfall events and this converges with undersized infrastructure. That’s why it’s so pronounced."
  • News outlet logo for wxyz.com
    What this weekend's flooding says about Michigan's infrastructure
    As metro Detroit families are still dealing with the aftermath of this weekend's severe flooding, many are calling the state's infrastructure into question. "It is safe to say everyone is feeling vulnerable. We've had increasingly unpredictable extreme rainfall events. They're, basically, making our infrastructure look outdated at this time, so we're basically undersized and overstretched in response to these precipitation events," says Bill Shuster, professor and chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Wayne State University. "What's to be done? It really demands quite a bit of assessment work. Each part of the Detroit metro area cycles water differently and, of course, we have all the infrastructure that plumbs our wastewater, stormwater system, the collection, the conveyance, the treatment, and this is aging infrastructure, we've known that for some time, and so we are really in a situation here where every aspect of the civil environmental experience, our transportation, our structural integrity (buildings), wastewater, every aspect of these critical services provided by these infrastructures is severed during an event like this. So, we really have to start looking at, again, equitable data, data assessments that take place in each area of town and you need good data to develop good engineering design approaches. That would be my general approach to this conundrum we're in. The resilience of our systems is very low at this point."
  • News outlet logo for wdet.org
    Flooding has become all too common in Southeast Michigan, but aging infrastructure remains the same
    Across Southeast Michigan, communities are reeling from the destruction caused by severe storms over the weekend. Images of flooded basements and cars submerged in water under freeway underpasses served as a reminder of Detroit’s poorly adapted infrastructure to increased instances of environmental disasters. Bill Shuster is professor and chair of the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Wayne State University. He says the storms that devastated Southeast Michigan over the weekend become more of a threat each year, but the aging infrastructure remains the same. “The burden just keeps getting larger and larger each time. It’s really about social and political will to make sure resources are available.” Shuster says fixing the state’s water infrastructure is doable from an engineering standpoint, but dependent on the resources given to communities by the government. “For any type of engineering design, we need the appropriate data to do this. This is not impossible, it’s not rocket science.” Shuster says improving infrastructure equitably in Southeast Michigan takes comprehension of its communities, and, “the way that we understand how water runs through American communities … so that we can then design the sustainability and resilience.” He says responding to climate change in infrastructure will take every aspect of environmental engineering, while arguably pulling in social work as well. “We’re training engineers for the future to take on these issues and we’re in the position of we need to pull together investment, infrastructure dollars that are guided by good data that’s translated by good contemporary engineering practice.”
  • News outlet logo for freep.com
    Here's what metro Detroit residents dealing with the flood aftermath should know
    Detroit was inundated with flooding this weekend and many are still recovering from the aftermath. Roads were flooded, cars were abandoned on freeways and basements were damaged — leaving residents devastated by what was lost and cannot be replaced. Your basement is flooded. Now what? First things first, local and statewide agencies have made it clear that residents should stay out of flood water, both in the streets and inside their houses. It can contain dangerous bacteria, sewage, oils and debris. If you do come in contact with it, make sure to wash up after, according to MDHHS. Be careful when inspecting the damage in your basement. Wear rubber boots that are only dedicated to flood cleanup when entering the water to avoid spreading bacteria, said Carol Miller, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Wayne State University. "Unfortunately there are many people with recurrent flooding," she said. "If you've had flooding, it's likely going to happen again and the best thing to do is to have a special set of rubber boots that you keep near the basement and you only use it when you're exposed to that floodwater." Power outages during flooding results in an increase in exposure to carbon monoxide,  an odorless, colorless and deadly gas. The CDC and Michigan Poison Center are warning people to never turn on generators, pressure washers or other gasoline, propane, natural gas, wood or charcoal devices inside your home or near an open window or door, as they produce hazardous levels of carbon monoxide. "People exposed to carbon monoxide may feel as if they have a cold or the flu," stated the warning issued by the Michigan Poison Center at the Wayne State University School of Medicine. "Flooding shouldn't be occurring in the first place and as an engineer, I would certainly be the first to say that there are engineering approaches that, when used in a sound fashion, can prevent this sort of flooding," Miller said. Multiple options are explored in detail in a recent study conducted by Wayne State University and the University of Michigan on household flooding in Detroit. Miller added that residents affected should develop a community or network of homeowners or renters in the area to pressure local government to "pay attention to these infrastructure problems."
  • CEE chair remarks on recent flooding in Detroit
    William ShusterThe Saturday morning flooding event was an equal-opportunity disrupter and destroyer of health, property, and morale. The facts of the matter sound familiar - we had an unusually large amount of rain that fell in an unusually short time period, overwhelming the design capacities of critical infrastructure and in the case of MDOT freeway sump pumps, people power, and I think electrical power; debris clogging inlets, so water concentrated and when it has nowhere to go it either infiltrates and percolates downward where it can then flow into basements, enters the sewer system causing backups, and when water can't spread out, it then gets deeper. In the Civil-Environmental experience, we consider the broader scope of infrastructure that renders services to us. This includes: transportation, water, air, and soil resources, waste management, structures, and construction disciplines. When you look at what a catastrophic flood does to each of these infrastructures: flooded freeways, flooded basements, uncontrolled sewer discharges, the huge pulse of solid waste and hazardous waste volume, the degrading impact on our foundations and structures, the flood severs or disrupts all of these services. Our Healthy Urban Waters team have characterized the multifold, negative human health impacts of flooding on residents. With so much talk about infrastructure, we know what needs to be done here, and the resources, well, we need to focus these on the basis of good data. For example, for any resilient, sustainable engineering design, we need good data on how the river interacts with groundwater in our coastal areas, basically how water moves around or does not move around our city. In the context of the flood event that visited havoc upon us just about 48 hours ago, however, having the resources to cope and recover, that's often a matter of privilege. There is an aspect of data equity here, and making sure that we have supporting data for each of the unique circumstances, regardless of perceived social, economic standing in the City. Through Federal, state, county, city, service provider-level coordination, we can get the data together, and Wayne State Civil Environmental Engineering know how to partner with our sister institutions and translate this data into designs and infrastructure that equitably serve. Hydrologists look for clues and evidence of the extent of floodwaters during an event like we encountered over the past weekend. What might look like an ordinary accumulation of debris is actually what I would call a passive, natural crest stage gauge. Floodwaters fill the streets and then move inland, picking up leaves, sticks, and other debris, and then wash all of it inward to the urbanized landscape. The floodwaters then recede, leaving behind the debris, and marking the elevation to which the flood waters encroached. Surveying in from the street (which has a benchmarked elevation), we can use this well-defined line of debris to do what would be an urban flood study. This data would be used to understand how the overall drainage infrastructure responds to different precipitation events. I just used approximate line-of-site estimates to get a sense of the extent of inundation in my neighborhood. Come to Wayne State CEE and learn how to do these types of urban-serving studies. One outcome of the flooding is residents disposing of their belongings that were ruined when basements flooded. Multiply this by a factor of 100 or 1000, and you'll get a sense of the problem here. Special, emergency trash pick-ups have been requested. However, can you imagine what this pulse of solid waste does to our overall waste management infrastructure? Note the intermixing of potentially hazardous wastes (paint cans) and other wastes. There is no judgment here: residents are clearing out basements and trying to prepare and get to the new normal. As a city and county, we're just trying to get properties cleared and get this stuff off of the streets. Given the overwhelmed infrastructure, this is the best anyone can do. That's a lot of pressure on our integrated waste management systems. This is just one aspect of how civil and environmental infrastructures are disrupted in the face of a disaster like the flooding last Saturday. Join Wayne State CEE and be a part of the future of engineering sustainable, resilient systems and processes. William Shuster, Ph.D. Chair, Civil and Environmental Engineering Wayne State University