EPA functions as both a scientific and regulatory agency of the United States. Research conducted under the EPA's Office of Research and Development (ORD) provides the basis for the formulation of environmental policies and programs. ORD's National Risk Management Research Laboratory (NRMRL), plays a vital role in the scientific research mission at EPA. As the laboratory for risk management research within ORD, we focus on environmental problem solving. The Ground Water and Ecosystems Restoration Division (GWERD) in Ada, Oklahoma, is one of six Research Divisions of EPA's National Risk Management Research Laboratory. This laboratory addresses areas of investigation consistent with the Office of Research and Development's strategic plan and the mission of the National Risk Management Research.
GWERD conducts research and provides technical assistance to support the development of strategies and technologies to protect and restore groundwater, surface water, and ecosystems impacted by man-made and natural events. GWERD applies this basic knowledge to develop and evaluate innovative methods to:
- Restore contaminated groundwater
- Prevent pollution of pristine groundwater
- Restore watershed ecosystems
The Division has an active Technical Support Center to provide support and transfer research results to the EPA Regional Offices, state and municipal environmental organizations.
Areas of expertise and professional and scientific disciplines represented at GWERD include:
- Soil scientists
- Computer scientists
Accomplishments / Achievements
During the approximately 40 years that GWERD and its predecessor organizations have been in existence, the Division's mission has evolved to what it now is in response to changing national needs and Agency priorities. Early research on wastewater treatment, petroleum and petrochemical waste products, and agricultural production evolved into an internationally recognized research program on subsurface protection and remediation which has, in turn, evolved into today's research program with the development of a growing ecosystem restoration research program.
GWERD researchers have been responsible for many innovations which have been applied to a variety of environmental concerns throughout the United States and abroad. GWERD scientists were among the first anywhere to recognize the potential use of in-situ bioremediation as a method to restore contaminated groundwater. They also were among the first to recognize the existence and implications of nonaqueous phase liquids (NAPLs), and still maintain a lead role in finding ways to clean them up. Other GWERD researchers have been in the forefront of research on the use of permeable reactive barriers to remediate contamination from metals and chlorinated solvents. Since its inception in 1987, GWERD's technical support program has provided site specific technical support at over 300 Superfund, RCRA, and Brownfields sites. GWERD scientists are now embarking on several efforts to evaluate the effectiveness of ecosystem restoration efforts on streams in several different states across the country.
GWERD information transfer activities, exemplified by practical, user-oriented handbooks as well as journal articles, reports, research briefs and issue papers, along with a variety of workshops and symposia, assist the Agency and the user community at large in protecting and restoring public health and the environment. Center for Subsurface Modeling Support (CSMoS) provides public domain groundwater and vadose zone modeling software and services along with direct technical support to EPA and State decision-makers in subsurface model applications.
Research results are presented at scientific and technical meetings and are published in peer-reviewed journals, EPA reports, project summaries, environmental research briefs, and issue papers. Publications are available to the public either in hard copy or electronically via the internet .
The Ground Water and Ecosystems Restoration Division (GWERD) addresses areas of investigation that are part of the Office of Research and Development’s Strategic Plan and the mission of the National Risk Management Research Laboratory. GWERD is EPA’s center of expertise for investigation of the soil and subsurface environment and ecosystem restoration. To carry out its mission, the division is divided into four arms: Subsurface Remediation Branch, Ecosystem and Subsurface Protection Branch, Applied Research and Technical Support Branch, and Technical and Administrative Support Staff.
In addition, GWERD’s Science Research Council oversees and guides the scientific focus of the division and is supported by individual research teams and principal investigators who provide direction for approved projects and specific efforts. A broad range of expertise and scientific disciplines are represented at GWERD, with professionals who are microbiologists, chemists, hydrologists, soil scientists, and modelers.
Water Quality Research Program at GWERD (PDF) (2 pp, 220 KB) (EPA/600/F-08/003) July 2008
Informational Web-Based Links for Ada, OK and Surrounding Areas
Kerr Center – The Ground Water and Ecosystem Restoration Division (GWERD) is located in the Robert S. Kerr Environmental Research Center, situated on 16 acres three miles south of Ada, Oklahoma. Completed in 1966, the three-story Kerr Center provides 50,000 square feet of laboratory and office space. A 1993 addition to the facility provided another 20,000 square feet for the library, computer support services, and a conference center. The nearby 10,000-square-foot annex contains a machine shop and storage facilities for field equipment and supplies. Separate facilities have been constructed for storing bulk chemicals, compressed gases, and hazardous waste.
Greening Robert S. Kerr Environmental Research Center
Directions to Robert S. Kerr Environmental Research Center
Gaar Corner – Besides the Kerr Center, GWERD researchers use the 110-acre Gaar Corner field site to conduct research. Gaar Corner is located nine miles west of Ada and is the setting for both in-house research and collaborative efforts with academic and commercial partners, and private companies. The site encompasses a mixture of woodlands, open fields, and ponds. It was built to assist researchers in their efforts to safeguard underground supplies of drinking water from contamination by pollutants introduced to the subsurface via injection wells. In addition, the site includes a 2,000-square-foot building that houses both laboratory and computer facilities and a 1,000-square-foot shop/storage building.
GWERD researchers develop strategies and technologies to protect and restore groundwater, surface water, and ecosystems impacted by human-made and natural events. The facility is multidisciplinary with excellent resources. Scientists use state-of-the-science equipment: analytical chemistry equipment and solid-phase and colloid characterization instrumentation for analyzing, measuring, and characterizing samples; and field equipment to carry out research in subsurface remediation and ecosystem restoration.
The east-end addition of offices and meeting rooms was dedicated.
The name of the division was changed to the Ground Water and Ecosystems Restoration Division to reflect the change in mission.
The mission was again expanded, this time to incorporate research on ecosystem restoration (in addition to its well-established subsurface research programs).
A research program in ecosystem restoration was added to the Kerr Center’s mission.
In the spring of this year, EPA's Office of Research and Development was realigned to include the establishment of three national laboratories and two centers, incorporating EPA's fifteen research laboratories nationwide. As a result, the Robert S. Kerr Environmental Research Center became the Subsurface Protection and Remediation Division of EPA's National Risk Management Research Laboratory, headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio. From 1995 until 1997, the division's mission was to conduct research in support of EPA efforts to protect and remediate the subsurface environment.
The Kerr Center dedicated the library, conference, and computing addition to the facility.
The Kerr Center established the Ground Water Technical Support Center, which provides support on issues regarding subsurface contamination, contaminant fluxes to other media (e.g., surface water and air), and ecosystem restoration.
The Kerr Center became one of fifteen research laboratories administered by the newly created U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through its Office of Research and Development in Washington, D.C. The Kerr Center was designated by the Assistant Administrator of ORD as EPA’s National Center for Ground Water Research. Missions assigned to the Kerr Center from 1970 through 1980 included research on the environmental effects of:
- Animal wastes
- Land treatment and groundwater
- Petroleum and petroleum-related areas
- Water quality
All missions were directed toward solving environmental problems, both national and international in scope and importance.
When the Robert S. Kerr Environmental Research Center was dedicated, its mission was to conduct research applicable to the states of Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.
Amendments to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1956 directed the federal government to establish field laboratories in various parts of the United States. The labs were to be research facilities to combat increasing water pollution problems occurring nationally. One of these field laboratories was established in Ada, Oklahoma. It was named for Robert S. Kerr, a long-time U.S. senator from Oklahoma, in honor of his dedication and concern for the conservation and development of our natural water resources and his pioneering legislation in environmental protection.
With its beginnings as a regional U.S. Public Health Service laboratory under the U.S. Department of Interior, the Kerr facility provided technical assistance and training, and conducted research to solve water pollution problems in the states of Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.