Lab Matters Spring 2018 - Page 36

member spotlight Monitoring Environmental Conditions in The Buckeye State By Nancy Maddox, MPH, writer When you think of the state of Ohio, what comes to mind? Perhaps Dayton’s Wright Patterson Air Force Base, the famed Center of Science and Industry (COSI) in Columbus or the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, the nation’s oldest continuously operating conservatory. For Nik Dzamov, chief of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OH EPA) Division of Environmental Services (DES), one of the state’s defining characteristics is...water. Of course, the state was named after the Ohio River, which flows along its southern border and contributes more water to the Mississippi River than any other tributary. Yet, the state has over 100 additional rivers— including the Cuyahoga, Sandusky, Miami and Maumee—and roughly 2,200 lakes with a surface area of five acres or more. If you count smaller lakes and ponds, the number rises to 50,000 bodies of water covering an area of roughly 200,000 acres. These surface waters—together with a couple hundred major aquifers—comprise the source water for Ohio’s 5,000 or so public drinking water systems. And it is the job of DES to monitor the quality of this water on behalf of the state’s 11.6 million residents, the vast majority of whom rely on public water utilities. One of the most concerning threats to water quality in The Buckeye State is harmful algal blooms. Said Dzamov, “We have a propensity for harmful algal blooms in our surface water, especially in Lake Erie. There are about 120 water systems that use the state’s surface water as their source water. Each one of these is at risk for harmful algal blooms.” In fact, Lake Erie’s western basin experienced large harmful algal blooms in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017. In August 2014, toxic microcystin cyanobacteria infiltrated the water intake pipes servicing Toledo Water, forcing the shutdown of the water treatment system for three days straight—during which time the City of Toledo issued a “Do not drink” advisory affecting three counties. Other water pollutants include chlorinated solvents like tetrachloroethene, which has been widely used for dry cleaning. In addition to routine water monitoring, DES tests ambient and indoor air (often at dry cleaning facilities or structures built on old dry cleaner sites) and is active in emergency response. Facility DES is situated on the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) campus in Reynoldsburg, about 20 miles east of the centrally located state capital, Columbus. The division takes up the second floor— about 30,000 square feet—of a two-story, red brick building shared with the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) laboratory. The ODA laboratory is nearby. Said Dzamov, “We’re making an effort to develop a state laboratory network; trying to get Ohio state labs to work together in an integrated fashion.” Dzamov’s “pretty up-to-date” facility was built in 2006. Nik Dzamov during his time working on the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. Photo: Ohio EPA 34 LAB MATTERS Spring 2018 Chief Dzamov’s first acquaintance with OH EPA was as an intern for the agency while attending Ohio State University. After earning a graduate degree in biological sciences, also from Ohio State, he worked full time for OH EPA as a laboratory scientist and laboratory certification officer. In 2004, Dzamov relocated to Florida, where he worked on an Everglades restoration plan for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the South Florida Water Management District. “I took the job more because I would be in the Everglades a lot on an air boat than because of the pay,” said Dzamov. From there, he moved his family to Denver, Colorado, to work for the City of Englewood Environmental Resources Department, Industrial Pretreatment Section. After about a year in that position, Dzamov returned to Ohio to work for a private environmental management company specializing in hazardous waste control. In 2010, he said, “I had an opportunity to come back to OH EPA, and I made the move.” Staff DES has 25 full time, permanent employees—mostly chemists and biologists—and three part time, temporary employees. During summer months, it runs an internship program with four to five college interns. Revenue The division’s $3.8 million annual budget comes from solid waste disposal fees and laboratory service fees. Testing The division conducts about 150,000 tests/year on about 15,000 environmental samples/year. Its single highest-volume service is surface water testing for OH EPA Division of Surface Water. PublicHealthLabs @APHL APHL.org