University of Bucharest

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University of Bucharest

SEG Craig J. Beasley Award for Social Contribution 2022

Ionelia Panea, Victor Mocanu, Cezar Iacob, Razvan Orza, Mihai Furnica, and Denisa Jianu are faculty and students at the University of Bucharest, Romania, who worked on a Geoscientists without Borders project titled “Geophysical Investigations in the Polluted Mining Area of Zlatna, Romania.” The project, with US$100,000 of funding from SEG, generated more than $10,000,000 in unexpected benefit to the local community around Zlatna. Once the student group submitted polluted water samples to a nationally certified lab and the pollution numbers became official, the local politicians had to remedy the problem by law. While the local politicians may have suspected that the area was polluted, nobody bothered to do anything about it until the University of Bucharest students showed up, measured the pollution, and the numbers became official. Taking action can bring unexpected benefits.

Biography Citation for the Craig J. Beasley Award for Social Contribution

by Alexander Mihai Popovici

I was thrilled to learn that the University of Bucharest is the winner of the 2022 Craig J. Beasley Award for Social Contribution, and I am honored to introduce the group that participated in the project. Craig J. Beasley was the driving force behind the founding of Geoscientists without Borders (GWB). I also served on the initial founding board, so I have a special insight into the hard work that goes on behind these activities. In recognition of his contribution, the Craig J. Beasley Award for Social Contribution is given from time to time to a person or organization that has made a meritorious achievement that supports the application of geophysics to a humanitarian, public service, or other socially significant cause. The award was given to the University of Bucharest for its work on the GWB project “Geophysical Investigations in the Polluted Mining Area of Zlatna, Romania.” Ionelia Panea was the project lead, and Cezar Iacob, Razvan Orza, Mihai Furnica, Denisa Jianu, and Victor Mocanu were the university individuals who as faculty or students carried out the work.

The University of Bucharest has a well-decorated SEG student chapter with Victor Mocanu as faculty advisor. In 2021, the SEG Bucharest student chapter won SEG’s Best Student Chapter award. In 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020 the SEG Bucharest Student Chapter was awarded the rank of SEG Summit Student Chapter to recognize the contributions by the members to the section and the community. In 2017, the SEG Bucharest Chapter was ranked in the top three SEG student chapters in the world (see https://wiki.seg.org/wiki/ University_of_Bucharest_SEG_Student_Chapter).

In July and August 2010, the group of students and faculty at the University of Bucharest organized three field acquisition campaigns for the Ampoi Valley project. Each campaign included training sessions organized prior to field work. The training sessions aimed to introduce the participant students to the basic theoretical aspects of the geophysical methods employed: resistivity surveys, reflection seismic methods, ground penetrating radar (GPR), and geo-magnetic surveys. The sessions also contained safety training, discussions of the social problems that may be encountered in dealing with the local communities or with colleagues or organizers, automobile traffic rules and possible health injuries in handling the geophysical equipment, the weather, contact with animals and plants, and potential diseases. The last half-day of training was reserved for outdoor equipment testing in the courtyard of the faculty.

The Romanian seismic acquisition company Prospectiuni supported the project, providing most of the cars necessary for the field camps, thus eliminating the car-rental charges and considerably reducing costs.

The main purpose of the Ampoi Valley pollution investigation project, was to delineate the near-surface geologic structure and identify the relationship of the aquifer with the river and the effect on agriculture in the area. The group used shallow reflection seismic, resistivity, GPR, and magnetometry. In addition, they drilled several 2–3 m deep holes to gather lithologic information to properly calibrate the geophysical results.

Multiple field trips were organized for geochemical sampling of water, soils, plants, and tailing ponds. The samples were sent to University of Bucharest and Prospectiuni laboratories. One of the project’s intended goals was to make soil pollution distribution maps with heavy metals. One hundred twenty samples were collected from soils used for agriculture and from lands used for grazing animals. The samples were prepared at the University of Bucharest laboratories and sent to Prospectiuni, which offered to perform all the geochemical analysis for heavy metals for free. Prospectiuni owns a laboratory certified by the Romanian Government to realize geochemical analyses. After analyzing the samples, Prospectiuni provided a folder with its results, accompanied by legal documents attesting that the analyses are official and can be used in legal actions.

The geochemical analyses revealed large concentrations of heavy metals along the Ampoi Valley in the “Alert Interval” range, where the concentration values represent a possible danger for human life and where authorities are required by the law to intervene and remediate the problem. The investigations showed that all water sources used by the local communities were contaminated. The values of heavy metal concentrations in water and soils were above the intervention level. The law states that in such situations, the authorities must take action to solve the problem. Following the efforts of the students and faculty in quantifying the mining pollution in the Ampoi Valley in Romania, the European Union was required to build a water pipeline to provide clean water to the valley, the value of which is more than $10 million.

I have known some of the people involved in the project for more than four decades, since my days as a student at the University of Bucharest. As the SEG student chapter activities and the current award demonstrate, the group of faculty and students at the University of Bucharest have created a geophysical community and enthusiastic environment for scientific and social development, for continuous improvement of the Romanian earth science community, and a steady dedication to serve the society. I predict more good things will happen with this group. Keep up the good work!