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Engineering student works with Hutt City Council

In November, 51 of WelTec’s engineering students exhibited their final year projects in Petone. The symposium was a myriad display of engineering feats put together by Bachelor of Engineering Technology, Graduate Diploma in Engineering and Diploma of Architectural Technology students who are about to graduate.

“All students complete their projects in partnership with industry or an engineering mentor,” says Neil McDonald, Head of the School of Construction and Engineering.

Amy Sutherland, a Mum of three and completing her Bachelor of Engineering Technology, worked with Hutt City Council on her water project. Amy also worked closely with her WelTec tutor, Dr Milad Naghibi.

“Urbanisation has had severe impacts on water quality with stormwater runoff transporting metals, pathogens, sediment and pesticides into urban waterways,” explains Amy.

“Hutt City Council built a rain garden to help manage water and contaminant flow from a 1200 square metre carpark, we wanted to find out the effectiveness of this,” explains Amy. “Rain gardens are supposed to mimic nature’s natural hydrological processes to lower heavy water flows and remove pollutants. I wanted to make sure they did.”

Amy sampled the water run off into the rain garden at different times during a rainfall event.

“The rain garden removed over 65% of ‘suspended solids’ and 51% of zinc and significantly reduced water flows after heavy rain by 85%. There seemed to be less successful removal of some other contaminants, and it’s been good to retrieve this data to better understand which ones and why,” says Amy.

Sylvio Leal, subdivision engineer at Hutt City Council, who worked with Amy on the project, explained that there is an increasing need to ensure that engineers consider, understand and take appropriate measures to protect our environment through engineered solutions. “This can often be achieved through the implementation of suitable stormwater treatment systems such as rain gardens,” says Sylvio. “The experience and understanding Amy gathered through this project will be invaluable for her engineering career in this environmentally focused era.”

During her final year of study Amy, originally from Canada, worked at engineering consultancy, GHD, and will continue working there once she has completed her study.

“I was only supposed to stay in New Zealand for a ‘year of adventure’,” says Amy. “But after six years I am studying to change my career from primary school teaching to engineering - back to my original passion of environmental science!”

Bianca Mella who is finishing her diploma, also with a focus on water, moved to New Zealand from Brazil in February. Like Amy, Bianca is concerned about contamination of groundwater and streams with the disposal of chemical sludge. The sludge is produced during the chemical steps in water treatment plants, while the water is treated to become potable, the chemical sludge is a solid waste that goes into landfills with a risk of contaminating the environment.

Bianca’s project successfully demonstrated that it is possible to develop an environmentally friendly alternative to sludge by recovering chemicals that can be reused and she also developed a new product to remove contaminants from water and wastewaters. Bianca’s WelTec tutor was Dr Induka Werellagama.

“I recover the aluminium from the sludge and removed colour from a solution,” explains Bianca. “Both of these are sustainable options to extend the life cycle of the ‘sludge’ and add value to something which is usually disposed of in a landfill.”

"My plan for next year is to find a job where I can put into practice all the knowledge I acquired at WelTec, combined with my experience from Brazil in water and wastewater treatment plants. I would like to help New Zealand use its natural resources practically, while still protecting the environment," explains Bianca.

WelTec offers majors in Civil Engineering specialising in water and waste, or structures, and Mechanical Engineering. Further information on the courses is below.

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