Enviro Team builds water treatment system — to Ed Sheeran

The Cal Environmental Team, BEARuption, has been hard at work designing an innovative, practical, robust water treatment for use on synthetic wastewater modeled after water in a polluted, stagnant irrigation canal following a volcanic eruption.

The team will compete at the annual Mid-Pacific Regional Competition on April 22 in Chico, CA.


Using materials from hardware stores (such as 18-gallon totes, 5-gallon buckets, and play sand), the team has designed a physical and chemical treatment system that corrects the pH, dissolved oxygen content, electrical conductivity, and turbidity of their polluted wastewater.


L-R: Ali Mathews, Meera Kota, and Courtney McGuire sample and test wastewater.

Their design is based off of common principles of wastewater treatment, such as coagulation, flocculation, sedimentation, and filtration.

Goals for this year have been centered on developing a precise chemical treatment that helps them optimize all their parameters. Using household ingredients such as alum and pickling lime, combined with a sand filter, students have been able to reduce the turbidity of their influent from around 900 NTU to 10 NTU.

Comparison of blank sample, wastewater, final effluent, and post sedimentation wastewater

"The challenge this year has been having enough clean media for testing—each filter requires 20 kilograms of washed and dried play sand," says Karina Yap, Project Manager.

"And by the way, we would not be opposed to any help washing media and would be willing to help other teams in return!"

The chore of washing media was compounded when a mouse fell into the stock of clean sand.  All the sand had to be re-washed, but they did get to nurse the mouse back to health and set him free.

The team often takes breaks during lab to have mini dance parties. 

"Lately we’ve been really into the new Ed Sheeran album but also the iCarly theme song," says Yap.

Another team member, Raunak Singh, says, "Though we can remove wastewater constituents from our wastewater, no one will ever be able to remove my love for Enviro.”

Follow them on Instagram @calenviro, and like Cal Environmental Team on Facebook!

Go BEARuption!

Go Bears!