Saturday, September 20, 2008


I ended up in China after Comcast bought ATT Broadband in 2002 and took my severance over to China. I had thought about Europe but decided "everyone does Europe" and I was looking for a challenge ( go ahead and laugh other China vets and old hands). And for those of you who are familiar with Shanghai past the inner ring road and namely the Min Hang district, there are alot of canals in the area and they are all used as public trash cans and toilets (as are most of the bodies of water I saw in China).

While always unsightly, in the sultry air of August you'll know when you are approaching a canal long before you see it. So I am walking over a bridge over the canal on the way to pick up a minibus on Hu Min road to go into the city (I felt robbed when line 5 was completed long after I left that area, taxi fares from downtown are pricey even on an empty road early in the morning or late at night).
I see one of the many cargo barges that ply the canal system to transport stuff and one of the guys who drive them standing on the edge of the boat. Before he sees me he bends down and scoops out a handfull of this inky black and putrid smelling water and drinks it. He then sees me, smiles and waves. His teeth look like a brown train wreck. I'm shocked and a bit disgusted by this but realize this guy was obviously too poor and possibly didn't know any better. And even if he did he may have not had enough money to buy bottled water. I also thought that if pushed into severe enough circumstances, I would do the same and so would anyone else.

That is the unique property of water as a commodity.

Fast forward to 2006 at the University of Colorado Denver and I am sitting in Physics I, the instructor (Dr. Randall Tagg) is lecturing us on fluid flow theory and flow through porous spaces. He also happened to be a specialist in fluid properties. I also am working as a materials tester at the time, meaning I do various tests on concrete, soils, asphalt, rebar and welds at construction sites. I noticed that in the curing tanks for our concrete cylinders that even after the concrete cured, when removed it would take some time for the water to drain from the pores of the cylinders.

So the light bulb comes on and I ask myself if concrete pores could trap organisms in water. I then posed the idea to Dr. Tagg and with his assistance wrote two papers reinforcing the idea that pore space only had to be small enough to inhibit E. coli from being able to swim. An accumulation of less mobile/immobile bacteria would then create a physical barrier at each pore space and inhibit the flow of additional bacteria through the pore space.

I was encouraged to pursue the idea further with some newer faculty members in the Civil Engineering Dept and that is where the research really took off.

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