Center for the Study of Metals in the Environment

EPA Grant Number: EM832971
Center: Center for the Study of Metals in the Environment
Center Director: Allen, Herbert E.
Title: Center for the Study of Metals in the Environment
Investigators: Allen, Herbert E.
Institution: University of Delaware
EPA Project Officer: Hiscock, Michael
Project Period: August 1, 2006 through July 31, 2008
Project Amount: $651,300
RFA: Targeted Research Center (2004) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Hazardous Waste/Remediation , Targeted Research


The Center for the Study of Metals in the Environment is a multi-investigator team of scientists and engineers from University of Delaware, and Pennsylvania State University working to further the understanding of processes affecting the fate and effects of metals in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Regulatory focus has shifted from end of pipe treatment regulations based on available technologies to assessment of potential environmental effects. For example, discharge permit limits are now designed to be environmentally protective of receiving waters and soil criteria are intended to protect terrestrial resources. The generation of appropriate regulatory procedures requires a sound understanding of the chemistry, toxicology, and fate of metals in the environment. The purpose of the Center for the Study of Metals in the Environment (CSME) is to address questions concerned with risks of metals in the environment through research, technology transfer, outreach, and education.

The major effort will be in the development of quantitative tools for understanding and predicting the fate and effects of metals in terrestrial systems. During the period 2001-2006, the Center’s researchers have made significant advances in understanding the fate and toxicity of metals in aquatic systems. However, there has been less emphasis on the development of quantitative and mechanistic approaches that can be used for hazard and risk assessment in the terrestrial environment. The purpose of this phase of Center activity is to remedy this situation and to develop the understanding and models that can allow rational risk assessment to be made in terrestrial settings.


We propose significant new projects to provide such tools. The Unit World Model, being developed under the direction of Dr. Dominic Di Toro in the CSME, has been reviewed by a SETAC (Society for Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry) Workshop on Hazard Identification Approach for Metals and Inorganic Metal Substances. In the 5-year period of CSME activities covered by this proposal the focus of further development of the Unit World Model will be its extension first to streams and then to terrestrial systems. The first 2 years, for which the work plans have been developed, will focus on the development of the model for rivers and streams. Both cationic metals (e.g., cadmium, copper, chromium(III), lead, nickel and zinc) and anionic metals and metalloids (e.g., chromium(VI), arsenic and selenium) will be studied. In addition, research will continue in order to understand the metal sequestration into soils with a view toward developing a mechanistic model for this important phenomena. Finally the development of a Terrestrial Biotic Ligand Model will continue so that the model parameters are based on a better mechanistic understanding of the routes and modes of toxicity.

Expected Results:

Projects that are funded are:

  1. Exposure Assessment: Developing a Unit World Model for Metals in Streams and Rivers
  2. Fate of Metals in Terrestrial Systems : Mechanisms of Metal Sequestration in Soils
  3. Terrestrial Toxicity: Further Development of a Terrestrial Biotic Ligand Model (TBLM)

These projects are all intended to supply either sub models or data sets for eventual inclusion into the Terrestrial Unit World Framework.

Supplemental Keywords:

Metals, Soil Risk Assessment, Terrestrial Fate Models, Partitioning, Toxicity, Sorption,, Health, Scientific Discipline, ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT, Health Risk Assessment, Risk Assessments, Biochemistry, Ecological Risk Assessment, Risk Assessment, contaminated sediments, fate and transport, contaminant transport, environmental risks, outreach and training, human exposure, toxicity, groundwater contamination, risk based model, arsenic, exposure assessment, human health risk

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2007
  • Final