Stop It At The Source

Hendratta Ali is decoding the geochemistry behind water contamination

As a geologist earning her Ph.D. at OSU, Hendratta Ali values direct access to state-of-the-art equipment. “Typically, you send samples to an outside lab. Not here,” she said. “I go to the field, collect the samples, bring them to the lab. I analyze them. At the end of the day, I know where my data comes from.”

It’s important, she says, because understanding every step of the process means mitigating the consequences of mining at established sites or at potential new alternative energy sites. “I study carbon cycling and contaminated waters,” she said. “The process of generating energy, especially coal mining and mining of metals such as lead and zinc, can also produce acid. That acid reacts with other elements. It’s one of the ways carbon dioxide gets into our environment.”

Back in her home, in the central African nation of Cameroon, industrial activity and related contamination is minimal—at least for now. “When you start having a lot of development, then these issues become more and more important because it does not only affect a little area,” she said. “Water spreads out.”

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© 2013