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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Technology Update

Air Date: Week of December 29, 2000

Cynthia Graber reports on how a TV police chase inspired hi-tech environmental detective work.

Transcript

GRABER: One night, John Church, an Arkansas environmental official, was watching TV. And there on the screen, a police helicopter was chasing an escaping suspect on the ground using infrared detectors. Suddenly it dawned on him: maybe he could use the same heat-seeking technology to find the source of sewage polluting a nearby lake. Microbes that eat sewage release heat as they work, so sewage water is significantly warmer than ground water. Mr. Church flew over the lake using infrared technology that could distinguish heat differences as small as three degrees, and he found no fewer than 20 sources of sewage. A global positioning system allowed him to pinpoint the exact locations. Municipalities around the nation are interested in Mr. Church's technique. It could even be used to locate sun-warmed pools of water, the perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus. That's this week's technology update. I'm Cynthia Graber.

 

 

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