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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Technology Update

Air Date: Week of

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


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 groundwater. Mr. Church flew over the lake using infrared technology that could distinguish heat differences as small as three degrees, and found no fewer than 20 sources of sewage. A global positioning system allowed him to pinpoint the exact locations. Since then, Mr. Church has refined his system, and municipalities around the nation are interested, including New York - where the method could be used to locate sun-warmed pools of water, the perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes that may carry the West Nile virus. That's this week's technology update. I'm Cynthia Graber.



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