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UBC students win WEF award for airport de-icing runoff treatment system

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Students from the University of British Columbia won the WEF Student Design Competition for their Vancouver International Airport de-icing runoff treatment system. Photo Credit: Tomas Williams on Unsplash.

Four students from the University of British Columbia are winners of the Water Environment Federation’s 2019 Student Design Competition for their Vancouver International Airport de-icing runoff treatment system.

The 18th annual competition showcased innovative ideas from 30 teams from 26 WEF Member Associations and three countries during WEFTEC 2019, WEF’s 92nd annual technical exhibition and conference.

UBC team members Luthfi Subagio, James Craxton, Daniel Luo, and Johnson Li were led by faculty advisor Noboru Yonemitsu on behalf of the British Columbia Water and Waste Association. Their task was to complete a comparative analysis and design of two treatment, conveyance, and disposal solutions for aircraft de-icing fluid runoff and stormwater runoff at the Vancouver International Airport (YVR).

YVR has requested analysis and design to be completed for a deicing fluid runoff treatment system to “minimize biochemical oxygen demand concentrations released into the receiving environment as well as capital and operating costs, and provide opportunities for resource recovery.”

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The current industry standard for de-icing an aircraft prior to takeoff is spraying the aircraft with fluids such as ethylene or propylene glycol. One issue with the use of glycol based de-icing fluids is that it generates wastewater with high biochemical oxygen demand.

The students developed two runoff treatment systems as alternatives: a constructed treatment wetland and a glycol recovery system. The capital cost of the selected design is estimated to be $310,000, with a 30-year maintenance cost of $120,000. Compared to existing operations, the selected design is expected to save a present value of $19 million.

Option 1 – Biological Treatment. (a) Treatment system consisting of engineered wetland or attached growth bioreactor for treatment of de-icing fluid runoff. (b) Conveyance system of treated wastewater to selected disposal location. (c) Stormwater management system for general stormwater runoff outside of de-icing periods.

Option 2 – Glycol Recovery System. (a) Treatment system consisting of a glycol recovery system for treatment and recovery of de-icing fluid from de-icing fluid runoff. (b) Glycol storage for reuse. (c) Conveyance system to selected disposal location for residual waste. (d) Stormwater management system for general stormwater runoff outside of de-icing periods.

For more information on other student design projects at WEF, please click here.

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