MTU researchers develop new software to help clean up contamination sites

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. "Onc

Contact: Dr.David Hand
Michigan Technological University

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