July 23, 1999 Tons of fuel seeps from thousands of rusting storage tanks buried all over the United States. Industrial solvents that were spilled on the ground twenty years ago turn up in well water. Compounds like benzene and toluene have been detected in public water systems all over the country.
America is trying to cope with many thousands of contamination sites, and each one is unique. But a team of researchers at Michigan Tech has developed a series of software packages to make the cleanup a lot easier.
The programs are powerful, not only because they provide excellent models for site remediation, but also because they can be tailored to cope with virtually any air or water pollution problem involving industrial solvents, according to Associate Professor David Hand, program manager for the National Center for Clean Industrial Treatment
Technologies (CenCITT). The software helps remediators develop the best action plan for cleaning up their unique contamination site, whether it be insecticides in a lake, herbicides in a city's wastewater, or toxic, air-borne chemicals in a paint booth. The software lets environmental engineers determine the best remediation method based on the two EPA-approved techniques: aeration, which uses air to "scrub" away pollutants; and adsorption, in which a solid surface known as an adsorbent separates the pollutant from the contaminated air or water.
The software package, known collectively as Environmental Technologies Design Option Tool, or ETDOT, includes a database of more than 600 polluting chemicals, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and their close relatives, synthetic organic compounds (SOCs). It also provides information on a variety of adsorbents and treatment technologies, helping remediators choose which would be best for their particular situation.
"Right now, it's being used by one Southern California city to estimate how effective adsorption will be to remove MBTE from their water," Hand said. "Once they know how well it will work, they can determine the cost."
The software can also help engineers and managers in the chemical and manufacturing industries decide which is the most cost-effective way to deal with pollution problems: (1) designing processes to reduce or eliminate pollution, or (2) treating pollutant byproducts at the "end of the pipe," before they are released into the environment.
And ETDOT, a Windows-based program, is so accurate and easy to use that it's finding it's way into coursework. "They are using it at Texas A&M, Michigan Tech, and Stanford for classroom instruction," Hand said. "Both grad students and undergrads love it because it's so easy to use."
Students aren't the software's only fans. More than 100 clients world wide, in government, research, and private industry, are using ETDOT, which makes Hand very happy.
"Millions of dollars have been spent by researchers all over the United States on the development of these treatment processes," Hand said. "ETDOT is the synthesis of this work. Now, engineers finally have an easy, effective tool that brings all of that information together."
The researchers are working on seven other ETDOT software programs, which should be available in summer 2000.
Other members of the ETDOT research team are the CenCITT director, Presidential Professor John Crittenden; Research Engineers David Hokanson and Eric Oman, and Associate Professor Tony Rogers, all of CenCITT; and Associate Professors Alex Mayer and Jim Mihelcic (Civil and Environmental Engineering).
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The above story is based on materials provided by Michigan Technological University.
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