Project Examples

Using Hydrology to Gain Insight on Chloride Levels in Wells In Dunstable

Course: 14.460 - Water Resources Engineering
Semester: Fall 2006
Instructor: Xiaoqi (Jackie) Zhang
Partner:Town of Dunstable, Massachusetts

Brief Description:

UML students in the Water Resources Engineering course were asked to look at the hydrologic conditions at the sites of the various wells in order to try to explain to the BOH the hydrologic conditions that may contribute to the values found at the various wells. If certain hydrologic conditions are consistently shown to be associated with either high or low concentration readings, the BOH may obtain a better understanding of how widespread the problem in the Town may be and may also have a basis for paying greater attention to finding a cause for cases that may be brought before the board by concerned citizens when the situation for their case appears to be anomalous.

Full Description:

During the previous semester in the Environmental Engineering Lab class, water samples from wells in Dunstable were analyzed on a one-time basis to determine chloride concentrations. The Dunstable Board of Health (BOH) was concerned that there might be an extensive groundwater contamination problem and so a sample of well waters was provided for testing. A wide range of concentrations was reported.

UML students in the Water Resources Engineering course were asked to look at the hydrologic conditions at the sites of the various wells in order to try to explain to the BOH the hydrologic conditions that may contribute to the values found at the various wells. If certain hydrologic conditions are consistently shown to be associated with either high or low concentration readings, the BOH may obtain a better understanding of how widespread the problem in the Town may be and may also have a basis for paying greater attention to finding a cause for cases that may be brought before the board by concerned citizens when the situation for their case appears to be anomalous.

In order to address this community need, Professor Zhang developed a new S-L project for this course. In addition, this project has provided continuity within the Civil Engineering department at UML. Professor Zhang reported that this project proved to be easy to implement and it tied well with the course content. Professor Zhang further commented, “We are very fortunate to have Bill Moeller, S-L coordinator for the department, and to be the community partner. He was instrumental in every aspect of the development of this project. The effort he spent on this project made this project much easier to implement.”

Learning objectives met by the S-L project:

  • The impact of hydrologic information on pollutant transport

Community objectives met by S-L project:

  • Helped the community to understand why the wells had the levels of contamination recorded
  • Final reports on all the wells
  • A sample student report.

Last year’s project was repeated, but expanded to include the new data found by the Statistics course (14.286) which incorporates data for three more wells, which proves how one project can be useful for many future students, or as how Professor Xiaoqi Zhang states: “this project can be sustained for years.” The student provided reports with scientific reasoning explaining the wells with high and low salt concentrations; the time of the year also played a significant role in the well readings. As before, it was suggested to sample local streams at different times of the year to further demonstrate the transport of the pollutants.