State Attorney General Stein Awards UNCW Researchers More Than $92,000 Environmental Enhancement Grant

Thursday, October 28, 2021

UNCW faculty members Michael Mallin and Lawrence Cahoon have been awarded an Environmental Enhancement grant, totaling $92,192 from the North Carolina Department of Justice to study the water safety of wet detention ponds.

State Attorney General Josh Stein announced the grant during a visit to UNCW’s Center for Marine Science on Oct. 28. Stein awards grants annually to projects that will help improve and protect North Carolina’s natural resources. UNCW is one of four recipients to receive grants to preserve and enhance the environment in southeastern North Carolina.
“Your work to study these issues along North Carolina’s beautiful but at-risk coast is critically important,” said Stein. “At this center, researchers and educators are fighting the threats of climate change on two fronts: you’re conducting research that will help us address some of the problems, and you’re educating and training the next generation of experts who will continue and grow that work.”

Mallin and Cahoon, faculty in the Department of Biology and Marine Biology, will sample pond water for algal blooms and toxins, fecal bacteria and other water quality measures, and sample sediments for toxic chemicals, heavy metals, nitrogen and phosphorus.

The ponds are ubiquitous throughout the urban and suburban landscape, and they receive polluted stormwater runoff from all kinds of land uses, said Mallin.
“Such stormwater treatment systems are everywhere in the urban and suburban landscape and easily accessible to adults, children and pets, and no comprehensive analysis of their potential biological and chemical dangers has been accomplished,” he said. “The data should be valuable throughout the North Carolina coast and elsewhere in the state and out of state.” 

The researchers’ data will be statistically compared with pond physical characteristics and drainage area factors to see what physical and land-use factors most impact pollutant loads, said Mallin. The research will take place in New Hanover County, primarily in the summers of 2022 and 2023. Using the collected data, researchers can then determine which ponds are most unsafe and why.
“We will work with and inform our long-term collaborators in the City of Wilmington Stormwater Services and their public outreach program,” Mallin added.

Mallin’s laboratory is based in UNCW’s Center for Marine Science. CMS has been associated with local water quality analyses and issues for the past 25 years. 

“CMS-affiliated faculty and students work around the globe, from the Arctic to the Antarctic, from the deep sea to the Appalachians,” said Chancellor Jose V. Sartarelli. “The center has garnered more than $25 million in external funding to address local, state, national and global issues across biological, chemical, physical, health and engineering disciplines.”  

Water is a critical aspect of our environment that is often overlooked, said Ken Halanych, executive director of UNCW’s Center for Marine Science.  

“This research allows us to use and enjoy resources, such as local ponds and waterways, more fully,” he said. “The grant represents a key partnership between the state and CMS researchers to assess and maintain safe ecosystems to the betterment of our community.” 

Stein announced a total of $426,612 in environmental grants for southeastern North Carolina. Other grant recipients are:  

  • Winyah Rivers Alliance, $172,420, to create a water-quality monitoring program in the Lumber River Watershed that will be supported by the local community and the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

  • The North Carolina Coastal Land Trust, $50,000, for the Hoggard’s Millpond Conservation Project, which will help the trust acquire 348 acres of Hoggard’s Millpond Tract and transfer it to the town of Windsor to create a new public park.

  • The Town of Pembroke, $62,000, to create a stormwater utility program. 

Grant recipients for the Triad area and western North Carolina were announced earlier this month. The Environmental Enhancement Grant program began after an agreement between the Attorney General’s Office and Smithfield Foods in 2000. Under that agreement, Smithfield provides $2 million to the state every year to be distributed among environmental projects across North Carolina. Including the 2021 grants, the Attorney General Office has awarded nearly $37 million to more than 190 projects in the state. 

-- Venita Jenkins 


Larry Cahoon wearing a white shirt

UNCW research professor Larry Cahoon


State Attorney General Josh Stein tours lab

Research professor Michael Mallin, far right, gives State Attorney General Josh Stein a tour of his lab at UNCW's Center for Marine Science.