Consider that it may take less than a decade for pharmaceutical compounds now passing undetected through wastewater treatment plants to morph from a minor to a major public health issue, said NJIT researcher Taha F. Marhaba. Marhaba, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, has been director of the New Jersey Applied Water Research Center at NJIT since 2002.
Researchers have long known that pharmaceutical compounds pass undetected through wastewater treatment plants to be discharged into bodies of water. Both conventional drinking water and wastewater treatments do not remove such compounds well, said Marhaba. Hence, they may accumulate in the environment. Although today the concentrations of these compounds in drinking water are low, their eventual impact on public health should not be ignored. “It will be only less than a decade before the problem becomes major,” he said. Marhaba said researchers are now creating fast and inexpensive options for testing water.
Marhaba, an expert in water quality, has researched for the past decade a technique called the spectral fluorescent signature. The technique rapidly identifies problematic organics in water—such as pharmaceuticals. “Fluorescent signatures serve as a fingerprint in water, characterizing the organic content of the sample, allowing researchers to ascertain natural or unnatural sources. The technique provides instantaneous data if sensors are placed in strategic locations throughout a watershed.”
Water Research, Journal of Environmental Engineering and Journal of Hazardous Materials have published Marhaba’s research about this technique. The NJ Department of Environmental Protection has provided support.
Prior to joining NJIT in 1995, he was an environmental consultant with Stone & Webster Engineering Corp. Marhaba holds a doctorate and a master’s degree in environmental engineering and a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Rutgers University—New Brunswick, and is a licensed Professional Engineer.
One of the nation's leading public technological universities, New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) is a top-tier research university that prepares students to become leaders in the technology-dependent economy of the 21st century. NJIT's multidisciplinary curriculum and computing-intensive approach to education provide technological proficiency, business acumen and leadership skills. With an enrollment of more than 10,000 graduate and undergraduate students, NJIT offers small-campus intimacy with the resources of a major public research university. NJIT is a global leader in such fields as solar research, nanotechnology, resilient design, tissue engineering, and cyber-security, in addition to others. NJIT ranks 5th among U.S. polytechnic universities in research expenditures, topping $110 million, and is among the top 1 percent of public colleges and universities in return on educational investment, according to PayScale.com.