Case of the Contaminated Current

Thorp Scholar conducts research that will impact the health of an entire community.

Student researching

Thorp Scholar conducts research that will impact the health of an entire community.

Pictured: Woods’s graduate assistant, Aleah Walsh, collecting samples in Sampson County 

Thorp Faculty Engaged Scholar Courtney Woods does more than just conduct research — she conducts research to promote environmental justice.

Director of the Master of Public Health program in the UNC Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, Woods was drawn to Sampson County, North Carolina, after hearing concerns about a major regional landfill. While residents of the county were ready to rally around promotion of environmental health with regards to their local landfill, they needed scientific data to back up their position. That’s where Woods and her team came in.

“We decided to take water samples at various points along the creek that runs alongside the landfill,” said Woods. “Closer to the landfill, we saw higher levels of some contaminants, including some novel [man-made chemicals that can negatively impact people’s health] that would raise a red flag for the state regulatory agencies.”

Because of Woods’s research, residents of Sampson County have the data to push for change, and all members of the community will benefit.

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