WPI Boston Project Center: Keeping Wastewater Facilities Up and Running
Student Project Evaluates Back-up Power Plans to Prevent Disruptions in Wastewater Treatment
Even when a blizzard, an accident, or an unknown factor causes a power outage, sewage treatment can’t come to a halt. But to keep wastewater operations moving forward, facilities have to be ready to react.
A student team from WPI recently helped Massachusetts move one step closer to making sure its wastewater treatment facilities are ready for an emergency. The students, mechanical engineering major Faria Kader, biomedical engineering major Michael Kirejczyk, and biomedical engineering major Mary Louise Ross gathered information and data to complete an assessment and an analysis of treatment facilities across the state. They wanted to make sure each one is prepared for power outages and, if they are not, then determine what needs to be done.
The work was part of an Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP) — a project that requires teams to delve into problems that matter to real people — to help state agencies safeguard an uninterrupted wastewater treatment process, even in the event of power outages. The team was based at the Boston Project Center in Boston’s Seaport Neighborhood and close to the offices of the project sponsor, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP).
“Municipal water and wastewater facilities are critical infrastructure facilities,” says Michael DiBara, project manager with MassDEP. “They run 24/7. They require power at all times, even during events and interruption. "The WPI students helped distill disparate information to uncover where facilities are missing information or infrastructure that could contribute to an interruption in wastewater treatment.
Accurate information is essential for treatment facilities. “When water or sewage doesn't get treated, that can lead to extremely dangerous diseases and other illnesses,” says team member Kader. “In order to prevent that from happening and to keep all of us safe, the water we drink and the water that goes into public water systems — that needs to be treated.”