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He might not fit the stereotypical image of a warrior in battle, but through his research, Dr. James Amburgey is one man helping to lead the fight to combat recreational water illnesses.

You’ve probably seen his work featured in Aquatics International or on CBS’ “The Early Show.” Maybe you’ve even heard his talks at the last several World Aquatic Health Conferences, held each autumn.

Today, Amburgey is an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He’s responsible for several important studies, all with the ultimate goal of discovering best practices in recreational water filtration and water quality maintenance.

Amburgey first became involved in the aquatics industry through Ph.D. research while a student at Georgia Tech. His work, some at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, focused on drinking water treatment and included investigating crypto outbreaks.

Ultimately, that experience has led to opportunities to research pool filtration with the CDC. The goal, Amburgey says, is to understand how to make filtration systems work better in terms of removing the threat of RWIs, crypto in particular.

One of the first research projects he headed was to establish the effectiveness of clarifiers and explain exactly how they might best aid in removing crypto. In another study, he looked at the effectiveness of swim diapers. In testing all types of swim diapers, Amburgey and his team found that they released approximately 50 percent of cryptosporidium-sized microspheres used in a test sample in under a minute. Vinyl covers over disposable swim diapers allowed the release of approximately 25 percent.

Currently, Amburgey is using his expertise leading the Filtration and Recirculation Technical Committee for the Model Aquatic Health Code. He’s also busy on several new research projects. Having secured $200,000 in funding and $150,000 in equipment donations from more than 24 industry sponsors, Amburgey is planning to finish a follow-up to the earlier clarifier study. That study found clarifiers to be effective in a research setting, but not practical for real-world application.

“The goal of the new project is to try and figure out how to make clarifiers work in full-scale pools,” Amburgey explains.

That will be a three-year project and he says he aims “to find an affordable practical solution that everyone can start using right away to control [crypto].”