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Pitt engineering students study Chartiers Creek pollution

| Thursday, May 4, 2017, 7:12 p.m.

One of my responsibilities with the University of Pittsburgh's Civil Engineering Department is coordinating of our senior design projects program. In their final semester, seniors are required to participate in a semester-long team design project. Ideally these projects are based on real world problems, constraints and data.

The final class is a day-long colloquium in which each team spends an hour presenting its results to a large audience of students, faculty, family members, and visiting engineering practitioners. This year's colloquium was particularly impressive and I am proud of the students and their accomplishments.

Perhaps the most impressive of this semester's projects came from a team of environmental engineering students who studied a problem of great interest to me – abandoned mine drainage pollution of Chartiers Creek.

They selected two nearby sources – Scrubgrass Run and Woodville – and designed a practical, cost-effective system to remediate them.

The team proposed to capture the discharge from the two sources, totaling about 400 gallons per minute, and transport it in a system of pipelines to a 3-acre site near the confluence of the old creek channel and the current one, just south of Heidelberg. The discharge goes into the settling ponds, traveling over a series of weirs to introduce enough oxygen to convert the ferrous iron to ferric. Several days of retention time in the settling ponds and wetlands should be sufficient to remove almost all of the solids.

The other projects, equally impressive, included the complete geotechnical design for a commercial/light industrial complex, design of a six-level parking garage on the Pitt campus, design of a double-switchback ramp linking the Duck Hollow hiking/biking trail with the rest of the city, relocation of the access ramp on to the Parkway East at the Squirrel Hill Tunnel entrance and design of a workable potable water treatment system for an indigenous village in Panama.

Our faculty is deservedly proud of the senior design program and the students who pass through it. Every effort is made to motivate the students to apply the skills they have acquired to real-world problems they have not previously encountered and to develop innovative solutions to the problems.

My continued optimism about the future is reinforced by my observation of this group of very special young people. They are admirably equipped to make a positive contribution to our society and to all the different cultures that make up our world.

John Oyler is a Tribune-Review contributing writer. He can be reached at 412-343-1652 or Read more from him at

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