LBL Currents -- November 4, 1994

Researchers seek simple solution to selenium quandry

By Diane LaMacchia,

A team of earth researchers are turning to tiny bacteria to tackle a big problem: reducing the dangerous levels of selenium in agricultural drainage water.

LBL earth scientist Nigel Quinn and Earth Sciences Division Director Sally Benson are collaborating with researchers from UC Berkeley on a three-year project to find out if certain types of algae and bacteria take up selenium well enough to form the basis of an efficient drainage treatment method.

To test this new microbial technology, a pilot water treatment plant will soon be built in the Panoche Water District in western San Joaquin Valley.

"This is a very promising system in that it's a very cheap technology, and likely to be affordable for farmers," Quinn says.

Funded by a grant from the US Bureau of Reclamation, the Panoche water-treatment project grew out of a one-year experiment the researchers conducted in the Grassland Water District. In that experiment, they studied agricultural drainage water flowing through a complex of privately and publicly-owned wetlands that serve as habitats for birds and other wildlife. Contaminated water flows through more than 100 miles of channels, passing several private duck hunting clubs and travelling through the middle of the State-run Los Banos Refuge before it discharges into the San Joaquin River.

Salt-laden agricultural water--salty from the leaching of naturally occurring alluvial deposits and the evaporation of irrigation water--routinely drains into the San Joaquin River from cotton and tomato fields and fruit and nut groves on what would otherwise be arid land. This drainage water also contains high levels of selenium and boron, naturally present in the shallow groundwater underlying the agricultural area.

The research was motivated by indications that 25-35 percent of the selenium entering the Grasslands Drainage Basin was not detected in Mud Slough and Salt Slough, the two major conveyances for selenium-contaminated water draining into the San Joaquin River from the basin. This caused concern that selenium might be accumulating in the Grasslands area. High concentrations of selenium can be devastating to aquatic wildlife, as deaths and deformities of waterfowl at Kesterson Reservoir showed in the late 1970s and mid 1980s.

In one phase of the experiment, the researchers performed flow-rate and salt-load tests on the drainage water. They observed that the greatest losses of selenium coincide with the fall season and human activity. In the fall, high volumes of fresh water are transported through the water district--where it can mix inadvertently with drainage water--before getting diverted to duck hunting clubs and refuges.

"Either the selenium is in a different form like algae and it's moving out of the system--so we're not measuring it--or the drainage water is mixing with fresh water and getting diverted into the duck clubs," Quinn says.

In the second phase of the project, UC Berkeley biochemist Terrance Leighton and plant biologist Robert Buchanan studied selenium concentrations in microorganisms they found in the bottom sediments, aquatic plants, and algae from the Agatha Canal in the south Grassland Water District. They cultivated individual strains and studied their growth and ability to remove selenium.

"They isolated some strains that appeared to be particularly good at taking up selenium," Quinn says.

In a process invented at the Algal Research Laboratory in Richmond by UCB environmental engineer William Oswald, the selenium that gets concentrated in bacterial cells can then be removed as sludge. This is the idea for the treatment plant, in which the scientists hope to create an environment that enhances the efficiency of the bacterial up-take.

"What we've done is made some observations in a natural system and now we're trying to apply some of what we've learned to an engineered treatment system," Quinn says.

If they are successful, the simple bacterial technology could have an enormous impact in helping to solve the drainage problems on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.

Caption: Student researchers sample selenium-contaminated agricultural drainage water from the Agatha Canal in the western San Joaquin Valley.

Annual ALS Users' Meeting draws biggest crowd ever

The opportunity to hear about the exceptional science emerging from the ALS user program drew a record 250 attendees to the Annual Meeting of the Advanced Light Source Users' Association, held October 20-21 at LBL. The first day included several talks by users presenting ample evidence that the promises of "unique research opportunities" and "research not possible anywhere else" are coming true.

The second day's theme was future scientific opportunities at the ALS, such as protein crystallography and polymer microscopy. During the lunchtime breaks, attendees got a closeup view of the beamlines, talked with the users about their experiments, and discussed new products with the 28 vendors set up on the experiment floor.

An informal workshop on "Infrared Microspectroscopy with Synchrotron Radiation," chaired by Gwyn Williams of Brookhaven National Laboratory, was held at the conclusion of the meeting to discuss the possibility of building an infrared beamline at the ALS. Infrared spectromicroscopy is useful for the study of a wide range of problems in materials science and has many industrial applications. Contributed by Jane Cross

Caption: The commercial vendor exhibit on the ALS experiment floor gave everyone an opportunity to learn about new products and technology related to synchrotrons and beamlines.

Come to the Benefits/Wellness Faire!

As part of the November Open Enrollment Month, the Benefits Office is sponsoring a Wellness Faire from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 10, in the LBL cafeteria. All employees are encouraged to attend.

Representatives from most of the UC group insurance plans will be at the Faire to answer questions. They will also be available (in the cafeteria) from 2 to 4 p.m. for personal appointments.

Several LBL departments will have tables at the event, including Occupational Safety, Industrial Hygiene, Employee Assistance, and EH&S Training. Representatives from the UCB Recreational Sports Facility and Strawberry Canyon will have information on discounted memberships.

Also in attendance will be representatives from two Life Sciences Division research programs: the Cholesterol Research Center, which is conducting research on the genetic and dietary factors that influence coronary artery disease; and the National Health Study, which is conducting research on the benefits of low body fat.

The Benefits Office staff will be available for information and appointments and will collect enrollment/change forms from employees who wish to make plan changes.

The cafeteria will offer a "healthy choice" menu for the day.

For employees who are unable to attend the Nov. 10 Wellness Faire, LBL's Benefits Office, as well as the insurance vendors, will have tables at the UC Berkeley Open Enrollment Faire, scheduled for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 16. That Fair will be held at the Student Union in Pauley Ballroom. The Student Union entrance is near the LBL shuttle bus stop on Bancroft and Telegraph avenues.

Annual UC 403(b) fund returns

Employees who are not taking advantage of the tax deferred savings programs should consider starting contributions through payroll deduction. The 403(b) before-tax and 401(a) after-tax plans are open throughout the year. More information will be available at the Benefits/Wellness Fair. Annualized rates of return through Sept. 30, 1994, for the UC-managed plans are below. Currents will continue to report the returns on a regular basis.

(Effective Sept. 30, 1994)

Equity 8.06%

Bond <11.19%>

Multi-Asset 2.91%

Money Market 3.75%

Savings 6.74%

Insurance Company Contract 8.0%

N e w s W i r e


LBL laser safety officer Ken Barat has been elected a fellow of the Laser Institute of America (LIA), a branch of the America National Standards Institute (ANSI). Barat received the honor at the 13th International Congress on Applications of Laser & Electro-Optics, held Oct. 17-21 in Orlando, Florida. To become a Fellow, the individual must be "widely recognized for exceptional professional contributions to both the laser community and the LIA."

Eileen Engel of LBL's Center for Science and Engineering Education made a presentation on October 4 to the Congressional Liaison Task Force on Science and Technology in Washington, D.C. The topic of the meeting was the Role of Federal Research Labs in Education Reform. Representatives from four other labs made presentations also. Engel's presentation concerned LBL's work in the Bay Area Science and Technology Education Collaboration (BASTEC) with the Oakland Unified School District. Staff from the Department of Education, the National Science Foundation, and other agencies were also present.

Fusion Power Associates has honored retired LBL physicist and UC Berkeley professor emeritus Wulf Kunkel with a Distinguished Career Award. The award recognizes Kunkel's lifelong career contributions to the development of fusion. Kunkel joined the Lab in 1951, and became a professor of physics at UC Berkeley in 1967. He was group leader of LBL's Magnetic Fusion Energy Group from 1970 to 1991. Over the years, Kunkel was active in most aspects of experimental plasma physics, as well as being a Fellow of the American Physical Society.

Stephen J. Lockett of the Life Sciences Division has received the International Society for Analytical Cytology's Presidential Award in recognition of excellent accomplishments and contributions in the field of analytical cytology. The award was presented at the International Society for Analytical Cytology Congress, Lake Placid, N.Y., on October 20. Lockett is a researcher in the imaging group of the Resource for Molecular Cytogenetics.

Health Notes: TB screening at LBL

LBL Health Services is now offering tuberculosis (TB) screening for employees in an effort to identify persons who may have been exposed to the disease, and who could benefit from treatment.

After decades of decline, tuberculosis is making a strong comeback, re-emerging in epidemic proportions. According to the most recent statistics reported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 26,673 active cases of TB were reported in the United States in 1992. California leads the nation in the number of cases reported at 5,382, an increase of 54 percent since 1985.

TB is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It is transmitted via airborne particles from a person with the active disease. Infection occurs when the particles are inhaled into the lung. These particles are very small and can be kept airborne for hours.

Once in the lung tissue, the bacilli can be either attacked and killed by the immune system, or they can be enclosed in hard lumps called tubercles, where they are still viable. At this point, the person will test positive on the Tuberculin Skin Test. Sometimes treatment with antibiotics is recommended to prevent reactivation of the bacteria in the tubercles at a later date.

Most people who become infected do not experience clinical disease; they generally remain asymptomatic and noncontagious. If the body's immune system is weakened, however, the bacilli can break out of the tubercles and invade the surrounding tissues. This is the start of the active disease. From here the bacilli can spread throughout the body.

The skin test consists of a small amount of Purified Protein Derivative (PPD) that is injected under the skin. The individual then returns to the clinic within three days to have the test site assessed for a reaction.

You should not have the PPD skin test if you answer yes to any of the following:

Call Health Services at X6266 to set up an appointment for a skin test. n

Cafe arts month

John Mueller, a technical writer in the Materials Sciences Division, received a resolution from Berkeley Mayor Jeffrey Leiter declaring November as Bay Cafe Arts Month. Mueller is president of the Berkeley chapter of the National Poetry Association, which is coordinating the community events within the city. More than 300 literary and artistic events will take place throughout the Bay Area in celebration of Cafe Arts Month and cafe culture. For more information, contact Mueller at X4897.

Lab life

Congratulations are in order for Nathan Hong, Facilities Architecture & Engineering project manager, and his wife Gloria. They are the proud parents of their first son, Jonathan Neil, who was born on October 21. The baby weighed 8 lbs. 7 oz.

C A L E N D A R -- November 7 to 11

7 m o n d a y


Noon, Bldg. 50 Aud.; C. Kniel, LBL, Call for Proposals - Quick Response Projects


4:30 p.m., 1 LeConte; C. Rubbia, CERN, "High Energy Accelerators for Energy Production," Refreshments 4 p.m., 375 LeConte

8 t u e s d a y


8 a.m.-noon, Bldg. 48-109; First Aid (EHS 116); pre-registration required, X6554


8 a.m.-noon, Bldg. 66-316; Radiation Protection - Radiological Worker I (EHS 430), concludes on Thursday; pre-registration required, X6612


10 a.m.-noon, Bldg. 90-2063; Machine Tool Safeguarding (EHS 245); pre-registration required, X6612


10 a.m.-noon, Bldg. 66 Aud.


10 a.m., Bldg. 50B-6208; B. Joiner, Joiner Associates, "The Power of Believing in People"


1:30-3 p.m., Bldg. 90-4133; Forklift Truck Safety (EHS 225); pre-registration required, X6612


2:10 p.m., 430 Birge; F. Dowker, UCSB, "The Decoherent Histories Approach to Quantum Mechanics"


4:10 p.m., International House Aud.; C. Rubbia, CERN, "Beyond the Standard Model"

9 w e d n e s d a y


7:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Bldg. 70A Conf. Rm.


9 a.m.-noon, Bldg. 48-109; Adult CPR (EHS 123); pre-registration required, X6554


3:30 p.m., 112 Wurster; R. Twiss and J. Radke, UCB, "A Virtual College of Environmental Studies? Telecommunications and GIS Linking Berkeley to Berkeley, and Berkeley to the Outside World," Reception immediately following

10 t h u r s d a y


7:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Bldg. 77


8 a.m.-noon, Bldg. 66-316; Radiation Protection - Radiological Worker I (EHS 430), continued from Tuesday; pre-registration required, X6612


10-11:30 a.m., Bldg. 48-109; Fire Extinguisher Use (EHS 530); pre-registration required, X6554


11 a.m.-2 p.m., cafeteria


1:30 p.m., Bldg. 66 Aud.; S. Bernasek, Princeton Univ., "Molecular Models of Corrosion Inhibition"

11 f r i d a y




Peach pancakes

Cream of broccoli

Broiled tri-tip

Hot pastrami & Swiss


Eggs Benedict

Beef barley

Spicy lentils over linguini



Biscuits & gravy w/eggs

Chicken noodle w/mushroom

Roast leg of lamb

Chicken Dijon sandwich


Big blueberry pancakes

Hearty vegetable

Curry chicken

Rib-eye steak sandwich


Ham scramble

Lamb mulligatawny

Seafood Newburg

Sloppy Joe w/spicy fries

Give the United Way

By Diane LaMacchia,

In Alameda County--home to LBL--one child of five lives in poverty. In neighboring Contra Costa County, suicide and homicide are two of the three leading causes of death among young people.

Last year, the United Way provided services to 172,277 Alameda County children. UW-funded violence prevention and youth crisis counseling programs helped more than 4,100 youths in Contra Costa County. Throughout the five Bay Area counties, money donated through the United Way helps hundreds of thousands of people, including the families of LBL employees. But contributions are not keeping up with community needs.

During the week of November 14-18, you will be asked to give through the United Way. LBL donor representatives in each division will distribute information about UW-funded agencies. Each donor rep will also have a catalogue that describes in more detail the function of all of the listed organizations. You are welcome to direct your donation to the non-profit agency of your choice. Last year, Bay Area donors directed their contributions to reach more than 3,000 individual organizations.

LBL's goal this year is for a total contribution of $100,000. Campaign coordinators Fred Lothrop and Shaun Fennessey encourage employees to help reach our goal by contributing through the convenient payroll deduction plan.

Last year, the average contribution from LBL employees who participated was $150. However, less than a quarter of employees contributed. The Lab reached about $85,000, missing its goal by $15,000.

"We'd like to improve on that record," Lothrop says. "The United Way is an outstanding cause for LBL's participation."

For more information about the United Way campaign, contact Lothrop at X7726, or Fennessey at X5122.


Flea Market ads may be sent via Lab mail to Bldg. 65B, electronic mail to, or via Fax to X6641. The deadline is 5 p.m. Friday.


'75 PORSCHE 914, V-8 conversion, Chevy 305, modified 901 transaxle, everything new or rebuilt, mint cond., $7500. 530-3933

'79 VOLVO 244 DL, 4-dr, cinnamon, 4-spd trans., sun roof, very gd, $1900. Mike, 642-9588, 841-3637 (eve./wkend)

'80 VW Vanagon, 2K mi. on rebuilt eng. & trans., new paint, gd cond., a lot of extra parts, $1950. 933-1747(eve.)

'86 SAAB 900, blue, 115K mi., a/c, p/s, a/t, $4K/b.o. X7326, 943-2274

'87 CHEVY Blazer, 4-wd, a/c, p/s, a/t, p/b, exc. cond., new tires, very clean, $8K. Hannah Pena, X6188, (707)829-0392 (after 6 p.m.)

'88 CHEVY Beretta GT, 86K mi., very well maintained, a/t, p/s, p/b, am/fm/cass., clean in & out, $4600/b.o. Karen, X4399, 724-1537


CARPOOL, rider/driver needed, Pleasant Hill/Mtz. area, 7 a.m.-4 p.m. (flex.). Steve Lundgren, X7855

VANPOOL, riders wanted, route begins at Rohnert Park Expy., Petaluma Blvd. So., Shattuck & Hearst, ends at Berkeley BART, work hrs. are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Shirley Claire, X4521


WARRIORS vs. Orlando Magic, Dallas Mavericks, NY Knicks. X4069, 262-5953


FLUTE, used but gd cond., for teenager. X4046

HELMET, Snell-approved, full or open face, for autocross use, med. sz. (~7 1/4), must be Snell '85 (M85 OK) or later in gd cond. Fred Beck, X4437, 528-2469

HOUSE CLEANING JOBS, meticulous, responsible, experienced. Sarah, 533-4557

MANX KITTEN, female. Jackie or Laura, X6325, 458-1217

MUSICIAN, piano/keyboards, 1 night/wk, jam w/blues, R&B, jazz quartet, for fun. Wayne Nordby, X7685, 837-2409

STEREO TURNTABLE, gd cond. Ming, X5616, 530-0462


BOAT, 16' Starcraft, 85 hp Merc., galvanized trailer, fish finder, Cannon down riggers, canvas canopy top, misc. accessories, $3K. Barry Bailey, X5817, 223-9597

BOY'S BLACK BLAZER, sz. 18, bought at Nordstrom's, $35; boy's matching dress pants, $15; bean bag chairs, red, $20; black square end table, $30; ski boots, Salomon, fits approx. sz. 8, exc. cond., gd for teenage/intermediate skier, used for only 2 seasons, $65. H. Matis, X5031, 540-6718

BRONZEWARE, setting for 12, from Bangkok, Thailand, circa 1967, used twice, elegant, unique, set consists of 144 pieces, twelve 11-piece place settings & 12 serving pieces, wooden case, $3250/b.o. Auben, X4613, 245-0343

ELEC. LAWN EDGE TRIMMER, $50; Imagewriter I printer, $90; Apple 1200b modem, $60; mountain bike, $50; Fisher bookshelf speaker, $10; portable elec. heater, $5; range hood, $100; portable am/fm/cass. player, $40. Ming, X5616, 530-0462

FUTON, Danish, wood, gd, strong mattress, like new, almost never used, $125. 642-4418, 525-1793

GARDEN WINDOW for bathrm, new, custom made wood frame, dbl. pane tempered obscure glass, fits 51 x 53 opening, cost $1300, must sell, make offer. Bob, X7509, 376-7677

PURSE, Dooney & Burke, tri-colored, drawstring, purchased in July for $275, sell for $160 firm. Mikaela, X6340

SOFA, custom made, olive grn, very gd cond., $200. X7405, 524-7721

STAIRMASTER, hardly used, like new, paid $120, asking $65. X5932


ALBANY, Jackson St., 3-bdrm, 2-bth condo, sweeping hill view, 1-car garage (attached), no pet, 1 yr. lease, $1095/mo., $1200 dep. 235-3983

BERKELEY, lg. furn. studio w/skylight, sm. garden area & parking, 20 min. walk to UC/LBL shuttle, 5 min. to stores & bus, $475/mo. 548-9869

BERKELEY, semi-furn. studio w/sm. garden area & sunny kitchen, 20 min. walk to UC/LBL shuttle, 5 min. to gourmet ghetto, $525/mo. 540-0385

BERKELEY, furn. 1-bdrm apt., 5 min. walk to UC/LBL shuttle, $660/mo. 527-1358

BERKELEY HILLS, Euclid/Cedar, 5 blks from UCB, furn. rm in pvt. home, kitchen privs., washer/dryer, deck, view, nr trans., shops, tennis cts. & Rose Garden, non-smoker, no pets, must be clean, prefer visiting scholar/ft working person, $450/mo. + util. Laura, 642-8517, 548-1287

SO. BERKELEY, spacious 1-bdrm apt. w/view, quiet neighborhood, new carpet & appliances, pets negot., $497/mo. + dep. 658-6222

EAST RICHMOND HILLS, just below the Arlington nr Barrett, 4-bdrm (2 lg., 2 sm.) house, bay view, kitchen, living rm, dining rm, yd, very safe & quiet neighborhood, less than 20 min. by car from UCB, public trans. 1 blk away, 10 min. walk from BART, avail. 1/1 - 7/1, $1100/mo., use of a car negot. Dr. Ivry, X4647, 642-7146, 237-3929 (eve.)

EL CERRITO, 3-bdrm, 2-bth house, Japanese garden, new marble frpl, garage, washer, nr BART/bus & shopping, no pets, avail. 12/10, $1245/mo. 525-8431

KENSINGTON, furn. studio, quiet, pvt., non-smokers, short term only, avail. 11/15, $450/mo. 559-8021

KENSINGTON, Berkeley border, spacious, furn. 2-bdrm, 1-bth house, dining rm w/deck, microwave, beamed living rm w/frpl, yd, veg. garden, garage, filtered view, nr Tilden Pk & bus, non-smokers, no pets, $1800/mo. Miriam, 525-4600, 845-8326

NO. OAKLAND, furn. 1-bdrm apt., quiet neighborhood, clean & modern bldg. w/underground parking, saunas & swimming pool, walk to shops, restaurants & Rose Garden, avail. after 1/15, $725/mo. X7472, 547-0727 (after 4 p.m.)

PIEDMONT, furn. 1-1/2 bdrm in-law house, sunny patio, $850/mo. Julia, 452-0790

PLEASANT HILL, nr Sun Valley Mall, share w/1 person, 2-bdrm, 2-bth condo, quiet area, garage, pool/pond view, washer/dryer, frpl, balcony, upstairs end unit, avail. 11/1 or sooner, $575/mo. Rob, X4028


BAHAMAS, 1-bdrm condo on beach, slps 4, Taino Beach Resort Club, 2 mo. adv. notice needed, $500/wk (Sat. to Sat.). 528-1614

HIGH SIERRAS, comfortable, quiet 4-bdrm cabin, washer, dryer, deck, frpl, 4 hrs. from Berkeley, 1 hr from Truckee, on Hwy 49, hiking, cross-country skiing, fishing (ice/normal), snowmobiling, wk/wkend, to those who will take gd care of our vacation home. Jane Mauldon, 642-3475, 849-4096

LAKE WILDWOOD, nr Grass Valley/Nevada City, panoramic lake view, furn. 3-bdrm, 2-bth house, swimming, fishing, tennis, etc., wkend/wkly rates. 352-7709 (eve.)

NO. TAHOE, new 3-bdrm, 2-1/2 bth home, greenbelt views, shopping, lake, Northstar & casinos within 10 min., avail. for ski season. Wayne Nordby, X7685, 837-2409

SO. LAKE TAHOE, 4-bdrm cabin, exc. loc., 2 mi. from Heavenly Valley, AEK, washer/dryer. Bill Holley, X4822, 283-3094

SO. LAKE TAHOE, deluxe lakefront townhouse, all amenities, nr all play spots. Herbert Newkirk, 422-8845, 455-5595


CAT, abandoned, neutered, male, tabby/calico, needs home urgently, playful & very affectionate, loves to be held, he cannot live w/other cats, must stay indoors. Diana, 223-8808



Mary Bodvarsson, X4014

Mac QuickMail, fax X6641


Jeffery Kahn

Diane LaMacchia

Mike Wooldridge

Lynn Yarris


Fax X6641

Deadline: 10:30 a.m. Tuesday


Fax X6641

Deadline: 5 p.m. Friday


Mary Padilla, X5771


Alice Ramirez


Public Information Dept., Bldg. 65B

Mike Chartock, Acting Manager