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(February 7, 2002, Gazette)

Engineering research monitors contaminated ground water
Go with the flow

Photo by Chris Hammond

Dr. Tahir Husain


A new research contract with Saudi Arabian Mining Company (MA’ADEN) will go a long way in further strengthening the Faculty of Engineering’s commitment to international collaboration and technology transfer. The contract, signed on Dec. 19 by the Office of Research and Dr. Tahir Husain, project manager and principal investigator, involves developing risk-based remediation technology for a contaminated site.

This is the second research contract that Dr. Husain has received for work in this area. The first, signed in January 2000 with Saudi Aramco, is a three-year study on the development of risk-based software for the remediation of hydrocarbon contaminated sites.

“This is a significant achievement for Memorial University’s Faculty of Engineering,” said Dr. Husain on the acquisition of this new project. “We have the opportunity to work on a project that crosses over into many disciplines and many areas of expertise. The possibility for future collaboration on a more detailed investigation into remediation technologies is certainly present.”

The project, officially titled Contaminant Transport Modelling using Visual Modflow – Pump and Treat Method, involves developing a cost-effective solution to treat contaminated ground water, identifying physical and chemical methods to contain pollutants within the source and conducting a detailed engineering and economic analysis of the selected treatment methods.

“The first step will be to examine the movement of contaminants. Then we can look at ground water modelling,” said Dr. Husain. “There are many steps involved. We need to develop a contaminant transport model, but first we need to identify the potential source and understand the mechanism of movement of contaminants in the soil and groundwater.

“Because this Saudi Arabian mining company is well recognized for its efficient and effective exploration, development and operations, and also well respected and very conscious of handling issues related to health, safety, and environmental protection, the company has been collecting data for a number of years at the site. Consequently, there is a lot of essential start-up information available.”

Using MODFLOW, a groundwater modelling package used to simulate a wide variety of groundwater flow systems, and MT3D, a comprehensive three-dimensional solute transport model, the transport of contaminants for different pumping and recharge scenarios can be evaluated.

“Various commercially available technologies will be reviewed and the one most appropriate to site-specific situations will be selected for analysis,” added Dr. Husain. “This will then be integrated with the contaminant transport modelling to assess the effectiveness in site remediation, and also to estimate the cost, and identify challenges associated with the implementation of such a plan.”

Since coming to Memorial University in 1995, Dr. Husain has been largely responsible for establishing a master of applied science in environmental engineering, and graduating about 60 students from this program. Dr. Husain is also very active in supervising a group of students for M. Eng. and PhD work with a focus on risk-based design in offshore oil and gas industries and ecological and human health risk assessment. He has also been successful in attracting students to the advanced diploma program in environmental engineering. These academic and professional training programs, along with applied research contracts, are just the beginning of what Memorial University has to offer the industrial environmental sector, locally, nationally and internationally
.