Task 3 FAQs

Please contact us to let us know you’re working on the taskWe will contact you right away with any breaking news.

Announcement: Teams need to submit three 100-mL samples of their treated water for testing(the original task stated the amount as one 100 mL)


Task 3: Heavy Metal Removal via Phycoremediation FAQs

Q1: Will you be using de-ionized water for the synthetic solution during analytical testing at the contest?
A1: Yes.

Q2: How many liters of synthetic solution will we be given at the contest?
A2: 18 L (to fit in 5-gallon bucket). You will not likely need all 18 L. We like to provide a generous amount up-front, in case of unexpected need.

Q3: I downloaded the task the first week it was posted. What do you mean by using 2 L to “flush the system”?
A3: We have eliminated the ‘flush’. If your version mentions flushing the algae during the bench scale demonstration, please download an updated version: 2020 Task 3-Phycoremediation of Heavy Metals.

Q4: Is two days at the contest long enough for us to show the judges that our bioreactor works to sequester algae?
A4: Good question! As with all tasks at the WERC contest, this is an exploratory topic. If we knew the answer to that, we would not need you to explore the possibilities. Freeport-McMoRan needs the results of your long-term experimental data as well as data gathered at on-site at the contest in April. Since it may take well over two days for definitive results, be sure to replicate your long-term experiment multiple times at your home labs and provide this data in your written report, oral report, and on your poster. If your long-term studies show that two days is not enough time for success in removing the heavy metals, address this in your reports and discuss potential for short- and long-term remediation efforts.

The bulk of your team’s score for each event depends on your team using sound approaches to proposed solutions and clearly and professionally reporting your approach, rationale, and results. Submitting reliable results to Freeport-McMoRan–even if those results indicate that your team was not able to accomplish heavy-metal removal–is the most important part of the task.

Q5: When will we receive the algae samples from Freeport-McMoRan?
A5: In mid January. Please email ASAP to let us know that you are entering this task, so we can prepare to mail your samples to you. Note that different algae tend to grow on rocks than in water. Freeport-McMoRan will collect from their mine water all types of algae they find.

Q6: The guidelines say, “You must submit to WERC a List of Pre-treatment Methods for approval no later than 27 January 2020.” What “pre-treatment” methods do we need to list? Are we supposed to be pre-treating the water to remove anything?
A6: We do not want you to use pre-treatments to remove anything from the water. In the list of pre-treatments, please include anything and everything that you plan to do with the water or algae prior to starting your bioreactor. This may include any pre-treatments made to the water to encourage algae propagation.

The primary reason for this pre-approval process is to ensure that you are using only algae to remediate the water, and not additional treatments to clean up the water that lie outside the scope of phycoremediation.
Q7: Does the Preliminary Report (List of Pre-treatment Methods) need to be in any special format?
A7: Please use this format for the report:
  1. Use a bulleted or numbered list and make descriptions as brief as possible.
  2. List the treatment(s), if any. If none, please indicate this and submit the report.
    1. If chemical treatments are used, list each chemical separately and explain its purpose
    2. if mechanical, describe the process and explain its purpose.
If you only need 1/4 page for the report, that is fine. Please do not turn it into an essay–Help the staff at Freeport-McMoRan quickly find the information they need.
Q8: Does it matter to the contest judges if the algae is dead or alive when used to remediate the provided mine water?
A8: The algae must be alive. We will test for this at the contest.

Q9: We are looking into the addition of Carbon dioxide as a nutrient for the algae. Adding this to the mine water may alter the pH, does this violate the rules?

A9: Addition of CO2 is acceptable (as indicated in the 8th bullet under Design Considerations). In this instance, being used as a nutrient, not a direct pH modifier, it is not going to affect overall water chemistry.
Q10: We are considering prepping the algae with CaCO3 to assist in manganese removal, but are worried this will also alter the pH, would this be acceptable?
A10: Addition of CaCO3 would not be ok. This would in effect “pre-treat” the water and increase pH directly which is not in line with the task purpose.

Q11: Is there a specific habitat we should gear our solution toward?
A11: No. Freeport-McMoRan does not wish to specify a habitat for the algae. (It is too much detail for this level of experiment.)

Q12: What is the salinity range for the Freeport-McMoRan mine waters?
A12: Salinity range of 1.22 to 1.40 g/L is appropriate as a baseline.

Q13: Is there a time limit on how long we can run our experiment?

A13: You may start running your experiment as soon as you are issued an on-site safety permit. The run-time may go until the sample is taken (1:30 PM on Tuesday).

We begin issuing permits around 7:00 pm on Sunday evening, after the Safety meeting and finish for the evening at 8:15 PM. We continue issuing the permits on Monday between 8 am and noon. Priority is first given to teams that have their ESPs approved prior to arrival at the contest, and next, to teams in the order in which they sign up (your team will sign up for a permit inspection when your bench-scale is completely set up).


Q14. Is there a requirement for all 5 gallons to be run through the column before taking the sample?

Q14: No. We do not anticipate that your team will need all 18 liters of synthetic solution. We provide more than enough to ensure that you do not need to come ask for more while you are running your bench-scale demonstration.

Teams need to submit three 100-mL samples of their treated water for testing(the original task stated the amount as one 100 mL)