YSU Engineering Students Win Award in Fracking Wastewater Treatment Competition

Youngstown State University (YSU) Civil Engineering students placed third out of ten universities in an Environmental Design Competition held at the University of Pittsburgh on March 31. The contest was part of the annual American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Ohio Valley Student Conference. Other universities participating included the University of Kentucky, University of Pittsburgh, University of Akron, Cleveland State University, Ohio State University, University of Cincinnati, and Ohio University.

The main goal of the competition was to remove barium and turbidity from wastewater generated by hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) of shale for natural gas wells. The YSU team added simple household chemicals – Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) and baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) – to precipitate barium sulfate and neutralize pH, then passed the water through a sand filter to remove turbidity. Their design removed 93% of barium and 98% of turbidity from the wastewater. Their treatment performance score tied them for first place in this category with the University of Kentucky.

Research on the treatment method was performed by Darshan Baral, a graduate student in Civil Engineering. In laboratory studies, Darshan was able to achieve 99.9% removal of barium. The treatment apparatus was prepared and operated by Tom Bowser and Sentel Rodgers, both seniors majoring in Civil Engineering. The students were advised by Drs. Scott Martin (Civil Engineering) and Felicia Armstrong (Environmental Studies).

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