On Thursday, September 24th, four recent graduates from the University of Vermont -- Olivia Nachbauer (Environmental Engineering), Ian Kosnik (Environmental Engineering), Sam Mikell (Engineering Management), and Jake Senecal (Environmental Engineering)-- presented their capstone project as part of the Water Environment Federation Student Design Competition. The international competition started with 27 teams selected based on preliminary competitions at the state or regional level. Four teams were selected as finalists, including the University of Vermont. This was the first time a UVM competed in this competition and they won second place. The team was guided by capstone instructor John Lens (Professor of Practice, Civil and Environmental Engineering) and faculty mentor Matt Scarborough (Assistant Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering).

The team’s project originated from a meeting between Assistant Professor Matt Scarborough and Bob Fischer, the superintendent of the South Burlington Water Quality Facility. The South Burlington WQF spends almost 30% of their operations budget on chemicals for pH control and phosphorus removal. Alum is added to precipitate soluble phosphorus. Alum addition decreases the pH, so caustic soda is added to adjust the pH back to neutral to protect the facility’s biological processes. While some alum addition is common for meeting stringent phosphorus requirements, usage rates at the South Burlington WQF were high for a facility of their size. Matt pitched the project to capstone last fall.


 Students at Water Treatment Facility


Team member Ian Kosnik, who lead the Biowin modeling effort reflected that, “I think that collaborative skills are some of the most important things I learned during this project. This will be one of the first projects for many students where they must work with a wide variety of people including team members, faculty, and community partners. The ability to work well as a team and involve many different parties in the design process will help the success of any project.”


 Students in Lab


The community partner also benefited from the group’s work. Superintendent Bob Fischer said “The experience this year with Ian, Sam, Olivia, and Jake and Professor Scarborough was at a new level. The group’s final report was at least equal to what we would have expected from a professional engineering firm that we would commission at considerable cost. The quality of their work was proven by their entry in the NEWEA Student Design Competition, winning the Wastewater category and subsequent entry and second place finish at the National Competition at WEFTEC.” Fischer indicated that the facility is currently reducing chemical usage according the no-cost option presented by the students and will explore other higher cost options recommended by the team. Fisher also added, “All the students were a pleasure to work with. Professional, polite, respectful of our time constraints and inquisitive which helps us look at things from a different perspective. We are excited to continue working with the University of Vermont in the future.”

Prior to competing in the Water Environment Federation competition, the UVM team won first place at the New England Water Environment Association competition in April in the wastewater category. A second capstone team focusing on removal of per- and poly-fluorinated alkyl substances form drinking water (PFAS; mentored by Assistant Professor Raju Badireddy) also competed at the NEWEA competition in the water environment category. This was the first time teams from UVM competed at the NEWEA competition.


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