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Washington and Lee University professor’s article published in science journal

Courtesy of Washington and Lee University.

Margaret Anne Hinkle, assistant professor of earth and environmental geoscience at Washington and Lee University, recently co-authored a peer-reviewed article in Environmental Geochemistry and Health.

The publication is the official journal of the Society for Environmental Geochemistry and Health.

Hinkle co-authored the paper “Manganese Exposure From Spring and Well Waters in the Shenandoah Valley: Interplay of Aquifer Lithology, Soil Composition and Redox Conditions,” alongside W&L alumnae Marina Croy ’22 and Haley Culbertson ’22 and a host of additional collaborators.

The research, which was funded by a grant from the Keck Geology Consortium and was performed in collaboration with the Virginia Household Water Quality Program (VAHWQP), looks at the levels of manganese contamination in drinking water sourced from wells and springs in the Shenandoah Valley. High levels of manganese can be problematic, as low-level chronic exposure can result in a variety of health and neurodevelopmental effects.

The group collected spring and well water samples and soil samples from various regions throughout the Shenandoah Valley, both from karst (dolostone and limestone) and non-karst (sandstone and shale) aquifers. This data was used to supplement pre-existing water data from the National Water Information System and the VAHWQP to determine that water from wells and springs within karst aquifers is preferable, with lower manganese levels. Water from non-karst aquifers displayed elevated levels of manganese, which carries a heightened risk.

“I am so happy to see our paper out in the world, and it was an amazing experience working with a large group of thesis students through the Keck Geology Consortium, including our very own Marina Croy and Haley Culbertson,” said Hinkle. “The students should be very proud of their hard work; the research itself is important on both a local and global level. Many folks in the Shenandoah Valley rely on water wells and springs for their drinking water, and our research can be used to help inform our community. An example would be determining where best to drill a well to minimize manganese exposure risk. By comparing manganese levels in water from karst and non-karst aquifers, our study applies to many regions worldwide.”

Hinkle has been a member of the W&L faculty since 2017, teaching in the Earth and Environmental Geoscience Department and serving as an affiliate faculty member with the environmental studies program. She holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Sewanee: The University of the South, and she earned a master’s and doctorate degree, both in earth and planetary sciences from Washington University in St. Louis.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.