Athens, OH 25 March 2014 – This weekend is the Ohio Valley Student Conference, a conference where schools like Ohio State, Youngstown State, Pitt, and Ohio University compete in civil engineering based competitions.
You may have heard of the concrete canoe and steel bridge, but I’m part of a smaller regional environmental competition. Every year teams are challenged to treat a polluted sample of water that is relevant to current environmental policy issues. Competitions have included treating drinking water contaminated with manganese, hydraulic fracturing flow back water contaminated with toxic metals, and simulated storm water runoff with high levels of orthophosphate.
This year, we have been challenged to create a treatment system from materials available at any local hardware store to treat simulated flue gas desulfurization (FGD) water. The water is not actual process water, because high levels of toxic hydrogen sulfide and toxic metals are present. The goal of the treatment process is to reduce the level of calcium present in the water and, if possible, reduce conductivity of the water while maintaining an acceptable pH.
The challenge is difficult, but necessary, as the EPA may begin to impose stricter outfall permits on FGD landfills. These landfills are part of all modern coal-burning power plants and are necessary to reduce the amount of sulfur dioxide released during the combustion of coal. Chances are an environmental engineer working in the Ohio Valley region, known for its coal deposits, will work with FGD in their career. I’m excited to see all the different methods for treating this contaminant.