Ensuring Water Quality and Protecting Human Health
Krista Liguori has had an interest in science since childhood, and she knew she wanted to be a scientist from a very early age. In high school she became interested in biology and chose that as her major when she started at Penn State University. Initially interested in animal sciences, it was on an alternative spring break trip to Panama where, volunteering at a medical clinic, her direction changed completely. After seeing the effects of contaminated drinking water in tribal communities, Liguori became passionate about ensuring water quality and preventing infectious diseases. Since then she has studied water quality issues around the world while earning a master’s degree in public health, focusing on global disease epidemiology.
After hearing of an ORISE fellowship opportunity with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) researching water quality and human health, and with a desire to gain more professional experience, Liguori applied and was later accepted.
The EPA Research Participation Programs provide college students, recent graduates, and university faculty opportunities to participate in current environmental research in areas such as air and radiation, water quality, solid waste and emergency response.
Liguori’s fellowship took place in Washington D.C. and was centered on addressing various water quality issues and regulations. While there she provided technical recommendations to the Office of Science and Technology concerning human health effects assessments for various water contaminants, such as pharmaceuticals in drinking water, and antibiotic resistance.
Liguori’s research involved literature reviews, discussions with EPA scientists, and searching national databases to assess public-health risks for the general population exposed to water contaminants. During her time with the EPA, she supported a team that updated the EPA’s Drinking Water Standards and Health Advisory Table (2018), developed a methodology for evaluation of data concerning the presence of pharmaceuticals in drinking water, and penned the section on antibiotic resistance in recreational waters for the agency’s 2017 Recreational Water Quality Criteria Review.
“This research affects all Americans”, says Liguori, “These criteria, advisories, and benchmarks are used by local water utilities, researchers, risk assessors, and governments to determine if contaminant levels in drinking water cause concern for human health or need further evaluation”
During her fellowship, Liguori learned about combining the worlds of academia with government, policy, and law. This gave her an enlightened perspective on how to approach program management and view public health concerns through a national lens. Moving forward, she notes that this experience will help her in coordinating partnerships with government bodies when working on public health projects.
Upon completion of her research program, Liguori accepted a position with the University of Texas Southwestern working on infectious disease prevention in populations affected by immigration policy.
The EPA Research Participation Program is administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE). ORISE is managed for the U.S Department of Energy by Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU).