The history of the Research Center of Environmental Pollution (CICA, for its acronym in Spanish) is constituted by a series of efforts carried out over several decades by people interested in promoting the development of environmental research in the country, through the University of Costa Rica (UCR).
Everything began in the seventies when a group of professors from the Schools of Chemistry, Medicine, and Agronomy proposed to the authorities of UCR the creation of a center in charge of researching environmental problems.
To address this initiative, the University Council appointed a commission in charge of evaluating the relevance and appropriateness as well as the possible weaknesses, strengths, and opportunities of a unit dedicated to this thematic. There were already some groups focused on this field of study. However, a formally established entity in charge of analyzing environmental pollution, especially the one related to pesticides, metals, and hydrocarbons, did not exist yet.
Considering the importance of contributing to the development of the country in terms of the environmental field, the University Council agreed to create the Research Center of Environmental Pollution (CICA) on February 16, 1982. Thus, it is recorded on the session n.°2869, article 16, of this collegiate body.
CICA was physically located in the School of Chemistry, as well as in associate laboratories of the schools of Agronomy and Medicine of UCR. In this period, two laboratories did this type of investigation: the Laboratory of Pesticides Analysis and the Laboratory of Waters Quality. There used to be five research programs on security and environmental hygiene, waters, waste, air, and technology of low ecological impact.
In the foundation of the work of Dr. Manuel Constenla Umaña, Lic. Bernardo Chacón Solano, M.Sc. Alexis Rodríguez Ulloa, Dr. Alfonso Mata Jiménez, Dr. Virginia Umaña Umaña, M.sc. Jenaro Coins González, and Dr. Elizabeth Carazo Rojas, among other instructors. The three first assumed the consecutive direction of the Center from 1982 to 1994.
Since CICA located in loaned spaces and separate spaces in the nineties, Dr. Elizabeth Carazo Rojas (director 1994-2012) carried out various efforts for the research center to have its own facilities. In 1997, the Center moved to the installations that the Research Center on Cellular and Molecular Biology (CIBCM, for its acronym in Spanish) occupied in the past, behind the School of Medicine.
Then, with a wider and more private space for its projects, CICA created external liaisons as well as new units, incorporated more personnel, purchased new equipment, and obtained the accreditation of its analytical essays. CICA achieved the certification of its first essays on quality analyses of waters and of pesticides residues in waters and food by the Guide ISO 25. Later, it was accredited with the INTE-ISO/IEC 17025:2000 and 17025:2005 standards through the Costa Rican Accreditation Body (ECA, for its acronym in Spanish), which the Center still has.
The Center began its works with the positions of director, secretary, and one laboratory assistant. In 2004, the first three job positions for researchers were assigned. This allowed CICA to generate a higher quantity of investigation projects with funding from UCR as well as with the support of organizations for the development of projects, such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Canadian cooperation, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), among others. In this way, it was possible to purchase high-technology equipment, train the personnel, and have guest scientists.
CICA received recognition by IAEA in 2006 as a collaboration center in the online learning field and the establishment of abilities for the protection of the environment and food. It has kept this recognition for more than ten years. Likewise, the Laboratory of Water Quality was awarded the prize of excellence in 2010 for having been selected by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) and the Agency for International Development (USAID) as CAFTA-DR Regional Referent in the analysis of residual waters.
In the 2000s, Dr. Elizabeth Carazo made several efforts before the university authorities for the construction of a new building. UCR achieved that the World Bank provided loans for the creation of several buildings, which included CICA’s.
With the approval of the university authorities to start the design of the new building planes, in 2012, the personnel of the Center assumed the direction of the design, distribution, and other details. In the process, this project had the support of Macaya, González, and Jensen administrations. After multiple arrangements, the construction of the building finally started in Ciudad de la Investigación, Finca 2 of Universidad de Costa Rica, on May 15, 2017. It was finished in June 2018, and Dr. Carlos E. Rodríguez Rodríguez, Director of CICA, was put in charge of the facility on August 29, 2018.
CICA moved to the new building in November 2018. It was formed by ten departments and had a total of sixty people, including students as assistants, researchers of other units ascribed to its projects, and 33 operators trained in plant operation. To date, its primary focus of investigation covers the quality of waters, monitoring of greenhouse gas emissions as well as quantification of carbon in soils, and the behavior of pollutants in the environment, such as pesticides, metals, organic contaminants, and emerging pollutants. Its investigations also include bioremediation, climate change, ecotoxicology, and socio-environmental research.
The new CICA facilities were inaugurated on January 30, 2019.