UWM joins terror fight

matt.nash@marquette.edu

The school will be receiving grants from the federal Defense Appropriations Bill, which passed both the House of Representatives and the Senate, according to Zach Goldberg, press secretary for Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.).

The bill allots $1.5 million to two UWM defense-related projects, $1 million for the Center for Water Security and $500,000 for the Advanced Manufacture of Lightweight Materials project.

“We received two year’s worth of support,” said Val Klump, a UWM professor and director of the Great Lakes Wisconsin Aquatic Technology and Research Institute, which runs the Center for Water Security. “We’re just about to start our second year.”

The center received funding last year, its opening year, and this year’s bill matched the money, he said.

“This proposal was put to (Wisconsin congressional members) in July of 2001,” Klump said. “We were thinking about this in advance of Sept. 11. “So far, funding has come year to year.

Klump hopes funding will come indefinitely.

“To have a long-range impact, we need about 10 years of funding,” he said. “One or two million (dollars) a year isn’t enough to throw at this problem.”

Klump said the Center for Water Security is “the first and maybe only” such institution in the country.” Other universities are looking into research on water contamination, both in general and specifically related to terrorist attacks.

The center focuses on three issues related to water contamination, he said.

The center is looking at “new detection and early warning systems to detect biological and chemical contaminants in water supplies,” Klump said.

They are looking to detect deliberate and accidental contaminations. “Response strategies and research for clean-up” after contaminations will also be researched.

The funding will pilot the center’s projects, support its infrastructure and aid in setting up partnerships between the center and water treatment plants, both local and cross-country, Klump said. There are 11 pilot projects.

Alan Schwabacher and Peter Geissinger, assistant professors in the chemistry department at UWM, lead a monitoring project which protects municipal water supplies from terrorist attacks.

Schwabacher said they use optical fibers, very thin pieces of glass capable of sending large amounts of information, with sensory compounds that detect different chemicals and toxins. Pulses of light are sent down the fiber, hitting the compound sensors, he said.

The sensors change color when they come into contact with whatever chemical or toxin they are designed to sense. By sending light along the fiber, scientists can see very specifically where toxins are located. Funding will help ensure sensors work properly: making sure the sensors themselves do not emit toxins, among other things, Schwabacher said.

The project is eventually going to try making the technology available for practical use in pipes carrying drinking water to homes, he said.

Other projects include using zebra-fish to detect toxic substances, Schwabacher said. Another project involves using the atmosphere above Lake Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois to predict the movement of contaminants, said Kyle Swanson, project leader and professor in the department of mathematical sciences at UWM.

Leaders of the Advanced Manufacture of Lightweight Materials project could not be reached for comment.