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Managing Water Pollution  

By Chemical Engineering |

    Groundwater, surface wa-ter, wastewater, drinking water: it’s all essentially the same stuff. Whichever stage of the water cycle you care to look at, chemical engineers are to be found — either trying to stop water from becoming polluted in the first place, or cleaning up afterwards.   Cleaning up outdoors Many water purification processes rely on naturally occurring micro-organisms to oxidize contaminants. One of the most basic techniques is to allow wastewater to flow through natural or artificial wetlands, where aquatic plants and the bacteria that live among their roots remove organic compounds and heavy metals. Reed beds have been used successfully for small-scale sewage treatment and for industrial wastewater, especially as a polishing step after conventional biological treatment plants. Now a five-year study at Purdue University (West Lafayette, Ind.) has shown that artificial wetlands are also valuable for cleaning up surface water runoff — in this case from residential areas, though the principle could apply equally well to hard surfaces in industrial plants. Purdue soil microbiologist Ron Turco and colleagues started their research in 1998 on three artificial ponds on a newly renovated…
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