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Sewer District Chemist Heading To Peru As Fulbright Scholar

Bill Rinehart
Achel Garg stands in one of the MSD labs.

A Metropolitan Sewer District employee has been selected as a 2020 Fulbright scholar. It's not the first time for Achal Garg, the supervising chemist won the coveted scholarship in 2012 to study water recycling in Namibia.

Garg will travel to Peru in February to investigate pollution in Lake Titicaca, specifically what kind of pollutants are in the water and their sources.

"There are many lakes in the world, but I got interested because of the situation. It's the most important lake in the region because millions of people live around the lake or they use the lake for water for agriculture or industry, so that can affect their health as well as the economics in the area," he says.

Even though Garg hasn't been to Peru yet, he's been tracking information about the lake for years and says pollution is getting worse.

"I don't know if I have the solution to the pollution, but I will certainly try to see where the pollution is coming from, how much is coming from wastewater plants, and how much is coming from farming and mines."

Garg will be hosted by the Universidad Nacional del Altiplano in Puno, working with Ph.D candidates in environmental science. At the end of the tour, he'll submit a report to the Binational Autonomous Authority of Lake Titicaca and the Instituto del Mar del Peru.

He says while the work won't directly help Cincinnati sewer customers, he will hopefully learn a little something that can apply here.

"When we go and help people, we get international exposure. People will know that there is expertise in Cincinnati, and they came (to Peru) and helped us," he says.

Garg's work at MSD centers on research. For the last five years, he's focused on disinfection of sewage. That work was influenced by his first Fulbright scholarship in Africa in 2012.

In Namibia, wastewater is treated and directly used again because the country is so dry. "Fortunately, we have a lot of water in Cincinnati," he says. "What they are doing is certainly helpful (for us) to see how to make our effluent a better quality."

The Fulbright scholarship pays for all his expenses, and Garg has saved up his vacation time at work so his trip won't be at the expense of MSD ratepayers. He'll be in Peru in February and March.

Bill Rinehart started his radio career as a disc jockey in 1990. In 1994, he made the jump into journalism and has been reporting and delivering news on the radio ever since.