Clemson Environmental Engineering Team Wins 2021 WEFTEC Student Design Competition

Clemson students (left to right) Evan Groome, Danielle Larsen, and Curtis McClelland at the WEFTEC student design competition in Chicago, IL, October 2021. Not shown is team member Danny Greene who was unable to travel to the event.

Danielle Larsen, Evan Groome, Curtis McClelland, and Danny Greene are the national winners of the annual WEFTEC student design competition. The 2021 graduates of Clemson’s Environmental Engineering program used their Capstone Design project as the basis of their WEFTEC entry.

The project entitled “F. Wayne Hill Water Resources Center Solids Processing Upgrades,” was focused on the facility in Gwinnett County, GA. The plant is designed to treat up to 60 million gallons per day (mgd) of wastewater. Presently, it treats an average daily wastewater flow of 35 mgd and produces 32 dry tons of biosolid cake per day. Conventionally, the cake would be disposed of in landfills, but as disposal costs rise, Gwinnett County and FWHWRC are interested in producing Class A biosolids that can be land applied. After completing a Kepner-Tregoe (KT) Analysis, the students designed a thermal hydrolysis process (THP) to handle the biosolids. THP reduces solids retention time, increases solids loading rate into the existing anaerobic digesters, and essentially cuts digester volume in half while producing more biogas than the existing process. The students calculated that their design would decrease greenhouse gas emissions and reduce grid energy purchases, which would over time offset the capital cost of the new process.

If the project description sounds familiar it is because the last edition of the Journal carried an announcement of the team’s win in the regional competition en route to their WEFTEC bid.

Evan Groome presents details of the Clemson team’s thermal hydrolysis process (THP) design at WEFTEC.

There were 17 teams representing four different countries in the wastewater division of the competition. After Clemson the other top finishers were Northeastern University (2nd), North Carolina State (3rd), City College of New York (4th), and Southern Methodist University (5th).

Janet Cann of Spartanburg Water described the students’ presentation as excellent, very polished and poised. She was impressed with their initiative.

Reviewers of the students’ work stated that they appreciated the holistic approach to the problem-solving method to include sustainability and other related topics of importance to stakeholders.

This was Clemson’s first time being represented at WEFTEC and the students stated that they benefited greatly from networking with professionals and making connections in the field. They felt it was an honor and a humbling experience to work with great mentors. They want to thank Dr. Freedman (chair of Clemson’s Department of Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences), Dr. Popat (Capstone Design instructor), Greg Knight (Black & Veatch), and Gayathri Ram Mohan (Gwinnett County) for all of their help and support along the way and for giving them this great opportunity.