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Clarkson, village of Potsdam team up on wastewater treatment research


POTSDAM - A computer simulation constructed by Clarkson University students will help staff at Potsdam’s Wastewater Treatment Plant manage future changes to the village’s infrastructure.

Students in an advanced wastewater treatment course taught by Shane Rogers, an associate professor of civil & environmental engineering, began building the model during the spring semester to simulate the treatment plant’s performance.

If construction projects like hotels, housing developments and shopping centers rise in Potsdam, the completed model will predict how the plant must adjust to the additional wastewater they will create, according to Water/Wastewater Treatment and Hydro Electric Power Chief Operator Robert M. Henninger.

“It will assist plant operators in predicting treatment changes,” Henninger said. “Basically it’s another set of eyes and ears and mind to help manage the plant.”

When finished, the model will allow the village to experiment with various simulated scenarios, such as potential improvements to make the plant more energy efficient, Rogers said. The model will illustrate how different parts of the plant would react if one part of it changed.

Rogers said the project has been a learning experience both for the students and the village’s staff, who have taught and learned from each other.

“There’s a good win-win between the two,” Rogers said. “It’s very synergistic.”

To begin establishing the model, Ashley Waldron, a graduate student in civil engineering, was one of six students who visited the sewage treatment plant twice a week for over two months and spent several hours each day collecting and testing samples. She analyzed the wastewater for various properties to provide a more complete picture of the plant’s current condition.

Future classes will continue the work that Rogers’ spring 2013 class began.

“The more data we took, the more accurate it became,” Waldron said. “It lets you know what the state of the water is at any point [in the treatment system]. It would be such a money saver for the wastewater treatment plant in the future if Clarkson could have this model that’s already being updated.”

Waldron was grateful for the real-world experience she gained through the project.

“It was really helpful that instead of just talking about it, we were actually running those tests,” Waldron said. “If you’re hired someday by someone that wants to have a place modeled, you already have college experience doing that.”

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