Hazardous waste sites can leave behind a dangerous environmental footprint so their cleanup is essential for a healthier planet. But with many sites containing layers of contamination in soil and groundwater, a site cleanup is an intensive process. In fact, as some WPI students recently discovered, the remediation process itself often uses significant energy, but there are ways to make the process more effective and less resource intensive.
As part of their Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP)—a project that requires teams to delve into problems that matter to real people—a student team examined how the remediation process can be more energy efficient at WPI’s Boston Project Center.
Team members focused on the groundwater pump and treatment systems in remediation for the project’s sponsor—the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). Aerospace major Christian Anderson; mechanical engineering major Benjamin Duquette; and computer science and electrical and computer engineering double major Zonglin Peng worked with MassDEP to see how they can increase energy-saving processes and motivate a change to those new approaches.
MassDEP has worked to lower the overall carbon footprint of remediation systems by reducing non-renewable energy consumption and replacing it with greener energy sources; now they needed data to show what was working. “This is something we wanted to do for quite a while, but we didn’t have the resources or the time,” says Thomas Potter, clean energy development coordinator with the policy and program development group of MassDEP’s Bureau of Waste Site Cleanup.
The students were tasked with gathering data to find out how that initiative was being implemented in the field so MassDEP could fine-tune its approach. “Having the dedicated group of WPI students really helped move this along,” says Potter.