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SUNY ESF And Clarkson University Partnership To Focus On Threats To State Water Resources

Scott Willis
WAER-FM 88.3

SUNY ESF and Clarkson University have partnered to co-lead a new Center of Excellence to research and solve threats to the state’s water resources.  CoE co-directors Chris Nomura of ESF and Robin Hannigan of Clarkson say both institutions have complementary skill sets to address problems in depth, from invasive species and harmful algal blooms, to pesticides and pharmaceutical drugs. 

“Although ESF also has technologies to bring to bear on contaminants and waterways,” said Nomura. “ESF is bringing its renowned experience and expertise in monitoring, natural solutions, and watershed ecosystem management to sort of fill out the overall picture.”

“In the case of Clarkson, we’re able to bring our world-class technological and engineering expertise and our foundational science programs to bear,” said Hannigan. “On not only addressing the problems in detecting contaminants and emerging threats, but also remediating them.”

But Nomura says their work will go beyond detecting and remediating contaminants.

“If you’re going to go remediate a problem, you want to see what those environmental impacts are after you make that remediation attempt,” said Nomura. “And so by having this full life cycle centered around these problems, we think we can really bring meaningful solutions to this.”

Credit Scott Willis / WAER News
Clarkson President Tony Collins says this Center of Excellence will engage with residents to find solutions.

Leaders say the new Center of Excellence in Healthy Water Solutions will bring together the largest consortium of water scientists in the state.  Clarkson President Tony Collins says today’s environmental challenges scream out for collaboration, which also includes residents.

“We are user inspired,” said Collins. “We want to go across the state and ask and seek out what are the issues of concern in your localities, in your regions. We’re here to help. And I think it’s a bit of a different model to the Centers of Excellence in the past.”

Collins says they’re requesting $43 million from the state for the new center.  State Senator and ESF alumnus Rachel May says she’s excited about the potential of the new collaboration.

“I’m sure there will be policy implications to a lot of the research that the faculty will be doing at Clarkson and ESF as a result of this project,” said May. “So I look forward to sitting down with the researchers and really learning about these issues so we can turn it into good policy at the state level.”

Among the contaminants the new CoE will be researching is PFAS, an emerging chemical seeping into drinking water supplies in New York and several other states.  May says the senate’s environmental conservation committee is considering legislation on the chemical.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at