Identification of harmful chemicals in water using a home-based test kit

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About This Project

The 2014 Flint, MI crisis, and unfolding Cape Fear, NC crisis have shown the need for everyone to take an active role in ensuring safely of our drinking water, rivers and lakes. We want to optimize and validate home-based screening level test kit for identification of pollutants such as pesticides, industrial chemicals etc. in water. We will verify the effectiveness of this method by conducting workshops with citizen scientists of all backgrounds and comparing the results to lab based analysis.

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What is the context of this research?

According to gallup, more Americans are worried about water pollution than they have been since 2001. There are now over 900 chemicals consistently being found in drinking water and US EPA and USGS studies indicate that about one fifth of US population has elevated levels of these contaminants in their drinking water. US Federal regulations require large public drinking water utilities to test for only about 120 chemicals, however this excludes many dozens of harmful chemicals such as PFASs which scientists believe should be regularly tested like in European countries. About 43 million Americans are dependent on private wells for drinking water which aren’t being tested by state or federal agencies since they are exempted from oversight by federal regulations.

What is the significance of this project?

Presently, the only way for someone to identify chemical pollutants such as pesticides, industrial chemicals etc. in their drinking water, private well, river or lake is by sending water samples for expensive lab testing costing over $200/sample. There are no rapid (<90 mins), low cost (<$20) screening level test kit available for homeowners to use themselves with limit of detection (LOD) comparable to lab based methods, however, law enforcement widely uses such test kits for narcotics/explosive detection. Our ChemPrint kit is being designed to provide such a screening test for pesticides such as: imidacloprid, atrazine, cypermethrin, alachlor, chlorpyrifos, diuron, cyanotoxins such as microcystin, industrial chemicals such as PFOS, pharmaceuticals such as ibuprofen.

What are the goals of the project?

Our goal is to optimize and validate a screening level test kit intended to be used by general public without the need to use complex equipment or a laboratory. We want to verify a user can perform the analysis using our ChemPrint Platform with high precision and accuracy. We will do this by conducting hands-on workshop at University of Georgia (UGA), Athens, GA where a small group of citizen scientists will use our protocols in a controlled environment. About three such workshops will be conducted so that we get an opportunity to iteratively fix the issues causing the most difficulty to our citizen scientists. We will concurrently test all water samples using state of the art laboratory instrumental analysis methods so that we can thoroughly validate our methodology.


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Donated funds will used to buy materials/consumables necessary for the workshop such as HPLC grade solvents, sampling bottles, solid phase extraction (SPE) disks and cartridges, thin layer chromatography plates etc.

Endorsed by

I have had the honor of collaborating and knowing Rob and Jay for over seven years. They are highly capable researchers and extremely passionate about using science to improve peoples lives. A screening level home-based test which is based on a simple and widely used technique like TLC is very novel. Techniques like these are already used in laboratory settings; this project optimizes and validates a home-based test for detection of harmful chemicals like cyanotoxins, pesticides, etc which is necessary for wider usage.

Flag iconProject Timeline

This project will last an approximately six months in which time all the water samples will be collected, workshops conducted and data analyzed.

Jan 10, 2018

Campaign launched

Feb 10, 2018

Campaign ends

Mar 01, 2018

Tier 2 rewards distributed

Mar 01, 2018

Final list of sampling sites released and sampling bottles sent

Mar 12, 2018

First citizen scientist workshop

Meet the Team

Jay Patel
Jay Patel
Principal Investigator,
Robert Phillips
Robert Phillips
Principal Investigator,


Professor, University of Georgia, Department of Chemistry
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Ray Serrano
Ray Serrano
Advisory Board Member,
Gerald F John
Gerald F John
Advisory Board Member,

Jay Patel

I graduated with M.S. (chemistry) in 2013 from University of Georgia and work on ACH ChemPrint in my personal capacity. I am also an ORISE fellow at National Exposure Research Laboratory of the US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). I started my research career in green chemistry about ten years ago on developing environmental friendly chemical manufacturing techniques using biocatalysts, with water as reaction media instead of harmful organic solvents. Later, I started working at US EPA on a Department of Defense’s Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) funded project to create risk assessment tools for estimating the vulnerability of aquifers and surface waters due to new and proposed energetic materials (aka explosives) and their potential transformation products. I am very passionate about citizen science, and I stay involved in the broader community by being a member of the Federal Community of Practice on Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science (CCS), Federal Community of Practice on Open Data and citizen science association. I also take an active part in standards development at American Society for Testing and Materials International (ASTM) by being an official voting member on ASTM Committee E13 on Molecular Spectroscopy and Separation Science, ASTM Subcommittee D19.06 on Methods for Analysis for Organic Substances in Water, and ASTM Subcommittee E55.01 Process Understanding and PAT System Management, Implementation and Practice. Google Scholar.

Robert Phillips

I was born in Fairfield, California in 1952. I received my B.S. in 1974, and Ph. D. in Chemistry in 1979, from Georgia Institute ofTechnology, working with Sheldon May. I was then a postdoctoral fellow at the NIMH with Seymour Kaufman from 1981 to 1983 and at the NIADDK with Louis A. Cohen from 1983 to 1985. I became Assistant Professor in the Departments of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Georgia in 1985. I was promoted to Associate Professor in 1991 and Professor in 1996. My research interests are in structures and mechanisms of enzymes in amino acid metabolism, and stereochemistry of alcohol dehydrogenases. I have taught courses in organic chemistry and medicinal chemistry at the undergraduate level, and physical organic chemistry, bioorganic chemistry, and organic spectroscopy at the graduate level. I like to go fly fishing when I have some free time. Google Scholar.

Ray Serrano

I recently completed my PhD studies in health services research at Emory University. My research is largely focused on health system decentralization in resource limited settings and in addressing policy-related determinants of health and healthcare utilization. My background largely stems from coordinating/implementing UN initiatives targeting HIV and Tuberculosis in Southeast Asia (Thailand) and Southern Africa (Zambia). I previously completed my Masters in Public Health at Yale University and Bachelors at Stanford University.

Gerald F John

I graduated with PhD in environmental engineering from Auburn University.

Additional Information

All backers will be officially acknowledged as our funding source on our webpage and will get exclusive backers only updates and labnotes on the project. Backers at specific tier levels will get additional rewards as specified in the next section.

All backers will get an opportunity to nominate a sampling site, and we will rank the nominated locations based on likelihood of occurrence of harmful chemicals, number of backers and their total contributions. The sites with highest rankings will be sampled as part of this crowdfunded study whereas the other ones will be sampled when we get an external federal grant. Please indicate if you can volunteer for field sample collection in our signup sheet which will be sent a day after the close of the campaign.

We also want our work to be a true collaboration between us and the community at large and hence please feel free to email Jay ( or Rob ( in case you are proficient with R/Java/python based data analysis packages want to contribute to data analysis aspects of this work.

Our other reward tiers are below:

Tier 1: $25

Join our exclusive backers only seminar (also remotely available) with dedicated Q&A time to talk about any aspects of the project or water safety in general. Also, get access to the smartphone app currently in development at UGA’s New Media Institute (NMI) which allows a user to check chemical contaminants levels in nearby waterbodies using publicly available datasets and data from this project.

Tier 2: $75

Tier 1 reward plus get personalized literature review results on chemical contamination at a location of your choice. We will include all the information we find in our open source georeferenced database with a user friendly google maps front end as well as NMI smartphone app.

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