Water and Environmental Contaminants Expert Richardson to Present 2017 Valentine Lecture

Susan D. Richardson, the Arthur Sease Williams Professor of Chemistry in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of South Carolina, will present the Richard L. Valentine Distinguished Lecture from 3:30-4:20 p.m. Friday, October 13, in 101 Becker Communications Studies Building.

Richardson will speak on "What Is in My Drinking Water: Revealing the Chemicals We Can't See."

She is hosted by the Environmental Engineering & Science Program within the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, and sponsored by the Valentine Distinguished Lecture, which honors Richard L. Valentine, UI professor of civil and environmental engineering.

Richardson has been interviewed by Wired Magazine about why water tastes stale after sitting out.  She also has performed at The StoryCollider, a live show and podcast featuring science-related stories.

Prior to coming to USC in January 2014, she was a research chemist for several years at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Exposure Research Laboratory in Athens, Ga.  

For the last several years, Richardson has been conducting research in drinking water—specifically in the study of toxicologically important disinfection by-products (DBPs). DBPs are the unintended consequence of trying to kill harmful microorganisms in drinking water. The disinfectants kill bacteria and contaminants that can cause deadly illnesses such as cholera, but they can interact with natural organic matter formed from decaying leaves and plants in rivers. Disinfectants like chlorine will react with that natural matter to form byproducts, or DBPs, that can in turn cause detrimental human health effects, including bladder cancer, miscarriages, and birth defects. Richardson’s work focuses on identifying new DBPs or other unknown chemicals in the environment and drinking water using mass spectrometry. Her research also involves studying wastewater treatment plants and the effects of disinfectants on river water. Most recently, she was awarded a grant to investigate the impact of hydrofracking on DBPs in water.  

Richardson received her B.S. in chemistry and mathematics from Georgia College & State University and her Ph.D. in chemistry from Emory University. Richardson is the recipient of the 2008 ACS Award for Creative Advances in Environmental Science & Technology and received an honorary doctorate from Cape Breton University in Canada. She serves as an Associate Editor of Water Research and on the Editorial Advisory Board of Environmental Science & Technology, Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry, Environmental Science and Pollution Research, Journal of Hazardous Materials, and Journal of Environmental Sciences. Richardson has published more than 120 journal articles and book chapters and writes for the journal Analytical Chemistry on emerging contaminants in water analysis and environmental mass spectrometry.

Richard Valentine has made pioneering contributions in environmental engineering to disinfection byproducts (DBPs) research, including their chemistry and kinetics as applied to drinking water treatment and water distribution systems. He is the leading authority on chloramine disinfectantkinetics which governs the stabilityof the disinfection process and thesafety of drinking water. He developed a simple, practical relationship predicting how fast chloramines decompose in the distribution system which is still widely used today. He also described a mechanism accounting for the instability and subsequent dissolution of lead (from lead pipes) when chloramines are used in disinfection.

Susan Richardson