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USask and Canadian Light Source assisting new research into groundwater pollution

Several research groups have come together to learn more about a pollutant that is emerging in groundwater in the Prairies.

The Canadian Light Source and University of Saskatchewan have teamed up with the University of Guelph to research sulfolane.

“Sulfolane is commonly used to treat sour gas, and there are large contaminant plumes across Canada, specifically in Alberta,” said Erica Pensini, associate professor at University of Guelph’s School of Engineering.

“We’ve been looking at how sulfolane migrates in groundwater, analyzing the risks to potable waters, such as wells, or other ecological bodies of water.”

Pensini said that sulfolane has been connected to fertility issues within cattle and is being found in milk.

The Spherical Grating Monochromator, a tool at the Canadian Light Source used to study the how material absorbs radiation and light, is being used to help further this research.

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Another tool at CLS, the synchrotron — which is used to analyze biological and chemical processes, among other applications — will also play a role in the research,

Pensini said they’ve been looking at how to deal with this contamination, adding that sulfolane plumes travel faster in water with fewer naturally occurring salts.

“We’re also partnering up with hydrogeologists and eco-toxicologists to explore other aspects that we’re not directly exploring in our lab,” Pensini said.

“At the synchrotron, we can probe aspects that we couldn’t probe anywhere else, so it is really, really important to us for this research.”

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