Rensselaer Biologist Named to NYS Drinking Water Quality Council

Sandra Nierzwicki-Bauer, professor of biological sciences and associate director of the Darrin Fresh Water Institute at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, has been appointed to the Drinking Water Quality Council by New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. The council will guide New York’s actions to ensure that all communities across the state have access to clean drinking water.

“Using the best available science, and tapping an array of experts, this new Council will provide science-based recommendations for the development of regulations to assure that good quality drinking water remains available to all New Yorkers,” said Cuomo.

The council’s first task will be to make recommendations to establish enforceable maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for three priority emerging contaminants that have been found in New York: perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), and 1,4-dioxane. These contaminants are currently unregulated by the federal government. The council will review the science on these chemicals and provide guidance to the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) on setting MCLs for these contaminants.

The council also will make recommendations to the NYSDOH on appropriate time frames and frequencies for testing emerging contaminants; best practices for public notification in the event an emerging contaminant is found above a notification level in drinking water; and whether and when to remove contaminants from an emerging contaminants list.

“As a microbiologist who has spent my scientific career working to help protect New York state’s freshwater resources, I am honored to serve on this important council,” said Nierzwicki-Bauer.

Nierzwicki-Bauer joined the Rensselaer faculty in 1985 and has been involved in the leadership of the Darrin Fresh Water Institute, an environmental research center located on Lake George, since 1993. Her research interests include molecular studies of microbial and picoeukaryote communities in lakes and rivers; basic and applied studies of invasive species, in particular, zebra mussels; and water resource management and environmental remote sensing.

She was co-author of a landmark 30-year study of Lake George, published in 2014 by the Darrin Fresh Water Institute, which was part of ongoing research documenting changes in the lake’s chemistry and ecology. That research serves as the foundation for the Jefferson Project at Lake George, a groundbreaking collaboration between Rensselaer, IBM, and The FUND for Lake George that is generating and interpreting massive amounts of data to understand the impact of human activities on large lakes and to guide preservation decisions.

In 2014, Nierzwicki-Bauer received the James D. Corbett Award from The FUND for Lake George for her work as an original member of the Stop Aquatic Invasives from Entering Lake George Partnership (S.A.V.E.). As a result of the committee’s work, Lake George instituted a mandatory boat inspection program, the first of its kind in a body of water east of the Mississippi River.

Nierzwicki-Bauer’s work is an example of how Rensselaer embodies The New Polytechnic, a new paradigm for teaching, learning, and research. Rensselaer leads by using advanced technologies to unite a multiplicity of disciplines and perspectives, in order to take on large, multifaceted challenges to become transformative in three fundamental ways: in the global impact of our research, in our innovative pedagogy, and in the lives of our students.

About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, founded in 1824, is America’s first technological research university. For nearly 200 years, Rensselaer has been defining the scientific and technological advances of our world. Rensselaer faculty and alumni represent 85 members of the National Academy of Engineering, 17 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 25 members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 8 members of the National Academy of Medicine, 8 members of the National Academy of Inventors, and 5 members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, as well as 6 National Medal of Technology winners, 5 National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With 7,000 students and nearly 100,000 living alumni, Rensselaer is addressing the global challenges facing the 21st century—to change lives, to advance society, and to change the world. To learn more, go to


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