Task 3 FAQs

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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.