Montana Tech Environmental Design Team Brings Back Top Award

The 2014 Montana Tech Environmental Design Teams recently returned to campus after competing at the 24nd Annual Environmental Design Contest held April 6 to 9, 2014 at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Montana Tech’s Team B received the first place award for Task 1 – Open Task and was also awarded the Freeport McMoRan Copper and Gold Award for Innovation in Sustainability.

WERC’s Environmental Design Contest is a unique event that brings together industry, government and academia in the search for improved environmental solutions. The event challenges students to solve technical problems ranging from validation of water treatment technology to improving product stewardship. For the contest, students present and demonstrate their research and design solutions. The proposed solutions provide opportunities to address concerns about water, energy, and the environment. 

The teams are advised by Environmental Engineering Department Head, Kumar Ganesan. Team A, which included students Chris Atherly, Josh Abrahamson, Adrianna Lundberg, Andrew Penamora and Shawn Smith, presented their project, Nanoscale Magnetite Mediated Arsenic Removal from Water. Team B, with students David Hutchins, Zach Maassen, Dustin Kaste, CJ Kissell and Joseph Rowe, presented their project, A Versatile Solution for Off-Grid Drinking Water Treatment. 

About Team A’s project:
Nanoscale Magnetite Mediated Arsenic Removal from Water
The project was to remove arsenic from water using nanotechnology. Arsenic contamination in surface water and ground water is a known global problem. Arsenic is a cancer causing substance that is from natural as well as manmade sources. The team of students used magnetite nanoparticles to capture the arsenic. The arsenic containing magnetite particles are then separated from the treated water using strong magnets. This simple arsenic treatment is very innovative and will be very effective in field applications. The magnetite particles are declared to be non-toxic by FDA. The magnetite particles are inexpensive and commercially available.

About Team B’s project:
A Versatile Solution for Off-Grid Drinking Water Treatment
The worldwide lack of access to improved drinking water sources is a pressing problem. The World Health Organization estimates 780 million people go without clean drinking water every day. Watercycle Inc. (WCI) has proposed a solution for this problem.

The most significant challenge in providing clean drinking water is pathogen removal. Existing technologies are not meeting the demand for portable, off-grid, community scale treatment systems. WCI has designed, built and tested a system that fulfills all these requirements.

WCI’s proposed treatment system is a portable, human-powered water filtration and treatment unit.  The proposed system utilizes a modified bicycle trainer stand.  The stand attaches to the rear axle of a bicycle, enabling the rider to pedal in a secure stationary position. The design allows an average sized bicycle to be pedaled between 5 to 6 miles per hour (8 to 9.6 kilometers per hour) and delivers water at 2 gallons per minute (7.6 liters per minute). The average rider provides more than enough power to operate the system. The water runs through a series of filters before it is sterilized to 99.99% microbial reduction by a 16 watt Ultraviolet sterilization unit that is also powered by the bicycle.  With an approximate 90% duty cycle, an average rider could generate over 100 gallons per hour.  The proposed technology is unique in that it is completely human-powered with no additional energy requirement to yield drinking water. 
The proposed system could provide a sustainable source of safe drinking water which would be a benefit to society by reducing health impairments due to contaminants in water, would be a significant benefit to the economy by providing jobs, and would be a benefit to the environment by reducing reliance on non-renewable resources and reducing pollution associated with providing rural communities with safe drinking water.

WCI has built and tested a prototype of the proposed system. The prototype performed as expected, producing up to 1.7 gallons per minute of clean drinking water. WCI performed tests, and the treated water meets World Health Organization standards of 99.99% bacteria reduction and turbidity of less than 5 NTU. The proposed final product will produce 2 gallons per minute and will be certified by the National Sanitation Foundation.

The proposed system will retail for $995 and will have a 10 year usable life when operated for 6hrs/day 360days/year.  Annual operating expenses under these conditions will include scheduled lamp and filter replacement totaling $323.  When operated in this manner the system will produce over 220,000 gallons of drinking water per year for less than $2.00/1000 gallons.  This price per gallon puts the system costs on par with municipal water costs.

For more information, please contact Amanda Badovinac at 406-496-4828 or