Texas Tech University

Texas Tech Taking Lead on $2.5 million EPA Grant

Allen Ramsey

May 25, 2023


Three Texas Tech professors are studying how the use of fireworks may impact water supplies.

Texas Tech University professors Andrew Jackson, Todd Anderson and Balaji Rao are taking a leading role as part of collaborative team which recently received a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

With Texas Tech as the lead institution, the project will bring together researchers from the University of California, Berkley; Georgia State University; the University of Delaware; Pennsylvania State University; and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas to study the impact fireworks have on various bodies of water and model the potential toxicity of perchlorate. 

“We're going to be working field sites where we're going to monitor before, during and after these big fireworks events,” said Jackson, interim department chair for the Department of Civil, Environmental & Construction Engineering in the Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering. “We're trying to figure out how to predict if a certain size firework event on a certain body of water will lead to a problem.

“If you have a huge water source, you really can't set off enough fireworks to impact it and a small firework display isn't going to impact a small body of water. But nobody knows where it's too big or too small.”

The grant project, titled “Quantification and Modeling of Perchlorate Impacts from Fireworks on Drinking Water Sources,” will help EPA better understand the ratio of perchlorate to water that could prove harmful to humans. 

Perchlorate is a chemical used in rocket propellants, explosives and fireworks and can have a negative effect on the thyroid if consumed by humans. 

“Protecting our water resources and ensuring clean drinking water is one of EPA's top priorities,” Chris Frey, Assistant Administrator of EPA's Office of Research and Development, said in an EPA news release. “With this research grant, Texas Tech University will be able to provide states and utilities with further knowledge on how to protect drinking water from perchlorate contamination.”

The study will evaluate six bodies of water across the country, including one groundwater source and the results will be integrated into the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT), a public domain model.