Karst, Groundwater Contamination & Public Health

Karst, Groundwater Contamination & Public Health: Moving Beyond Case Studies

This conference occurred from January 27-30, 2016. Registration is closed. For photos of the meeting and follow-up information, click here.

Group Photo KWI GW Contamination and Human Health January 2016



This conference will bring together karst and public health scientists, regulators, and community groups to consider overlapping topics of concern. Public health issues for karst aquifers stem from the ease of introducing contaminants, the ubiquity of karst terrains worldwide, and pervasive use of karst groundwater for human consumption.  The primary objective of the conference is to develop a systematic framework to address public health concerns arising from contaminant transport in karst groundwater. Specific aims for the meeting:

  • bring together experts from different fields for cross-fertilization;
  • develop a conceptual framework for how contaminants are transported in karst; and
  • identify particular adverse public-health outcomes and prevention strategies associated with acute and long-term exposures.

Meeting Information

The conference will take place in January 2016 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Invited speakers will include specialists in the karst geology of Puerto Rico, current water-related public health issues in Puerto Rico, tools for investigating contaminant transport, and human health risks in karst terrains. There will be a mid-meeting field trip to see the San Juan Estuary Program and a longer post-meeting trip to the karst of Puerto Rico.

The conference is sponsored by both KWI and the Puerto Rico Testsite for Exploring Contamination Threats (PROTECT) Program of the Superfund Research Program (SRP) of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). The planning committee includes KWI officers, directors and associates plus public health specialists from Washington University and US EPA.

1st Conference Circular
2nd Conference Circular
3rd Conference Circular

Abstracts (due October 1, 2015)

Arrangements have been made with Springer Publishers to publish the proceedings of the conference as a hardbound book: guidelines for formatting and submitting materials for book manuscript.


The meeting has turned out to be more popular than anticipated – while we’re excited to have all of the participation, both field trips are now closed to further registrations.

  • we have insufficient space on the Saturday half-day field trip to accommodate all attendees, and have closed the half-day field trip to the people who are already registered.  
  • the optional field trip is also now closed for additional registrations, due to limited bus space.

Technical Program

Arrangements have been made with Springer Publishers to publish the proceedings of the conference as a hardbound book: guidelines for formatting and submitting materials for book manuscript.

Confirmed Speakers

Post-Meeting Field Trip (Jan. 31 – Feb. 1)

Field Trip will return at 6 pm on Monday, Feb 1.

Field Trip Meeting Handout

This field trip is now sold out.

Logistics and Venue

  • Remember to mention KWI when you book your room for the event. We suggest that you make your hotel reservations as soon as you know your travel plans.  January is high season in Puerto Rico and so there are not an unlimited number of rooms available!
  • The hotel charges taxes (11%) and resort fees (18%) – typical for a San Juan hotel.
  • The hotel will extend the meeting rate for lodging for 3 days before and 3 day after the meeting is you decide to enjoy a little bit of extra sunshine.
  • If you are attending the optional 2-day field trip, and plan to stay at the Condado on Monday Feb 1st, you can leave a bag there free of charge.  We encourage you to do this to maximize the space available on the field trip buses.
  • CDC Health Advisory for travel to Puerto Rico – Zika virus

Organizing Committee

  • Dorothy Vesper, West Virginia University
  • Ellen Herman, Bucknell University
  • Will White, Pennsylvania State University
  • Bill Jones, Karst Waters Institute
  • Janet Herman, University of Virginia
  • Ingrid Padilla, University of Puerto Rico – Mayaquez
  • Jack Hess, Geological Society of America
  • Luis Rivera-Gonzalez, Washington University in St. Louis
  • Marian Rutigliano, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

For more information contact publichealth@karstwaters.org



The Puerto Rico Testsite for Exploring Contamination Threats (PROTECT) Program is part of the NIEHS Superfund Research Program.  The center has been actively investigating the links between karst ground water contamination and pre-term births in Puerto Rico since 2010.  This center brings together toxicologists, epidemiologists, public health specialists, medical doctors, chemists, engineers, and geologists. The project has strong ties to the community groups and residents living on the northern karst region of Puerto Rico.