Pollutants render a place or substance unusable. For example, a sewage leak into the local drinking water supply would result in a boil order because the water is unusable for drinking unless it is boiled first. Pollutants can be organic, inorganic, living, or not living. Emerging contaminants are a type of pollutant in which the potential for adverse effects on the environment or human health was not previously known or little is known about the pollutant.

ISTC researchers have been at the forefront of anticipating emerging contaminants. In addition, researchers are studying novel ways to treat or prevent pollutants from entering the environment. ISTC has a history of providing grants and conducting research related to heavily contaminated wildlife areas as a result of former industrial practices, such as at the Lake Calumet area near Chicago.

dirty black water flowing into an industial cannal  toxic water from mining
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