A Saskatchewan Polytechnic student’s year-end project about the former Husky refinery site in Moose Jaw could be used as part of the environmental engineering program this fall.
The educational institution’s recent Applied Research Student Showcase featured 39 videos of students explaining how their projects could help solve real-world problems. The provincial college shared the videos online for judges and industry partners to adjudicate. The adjudicators then named projects as first-, second- or third-place winners, along with an Industry Choice winner and a Joseph A. Remai School of Construction winner.
The virtual showcase was an example of Sask. Polytech’s efforts to maintain annual celebrations and traditions through online events during the coronavirus pandemic, a news release said.
Andrew Brittner, a student in environmental engineering technology, won $500 as the Industry Choice recipient for his project entitled, “Development of a project geographic information system (GIS) for the former Husky Refinery site in Moose Jaw.”
Also, Edward LaFayette, a student in the architectural technologies program in Moose Jaw, won $500 as the Joseph A. Remai School of Construction recipient for his project entitled, “Integrating a ‘living machine’ into a building design.”
A geographic information system
Brittner undertook the project to produce a GIS software application since it would allow future students to access thousands of data points that already exist within data tables about the site, he explained. Prior classes and extensive technical reports dedicated to the site produced several environmental assessments and contamination monitoring documents.
As part of his project, Brittner generated a geographic information system, a geodatabase with information, a data management system, and student assignments for the new school program. The GIS is now available for students and faculty to use, while the school will build upon it and upgrade it if necessary.
Brittner and a small team compiled 300 pages of information about the site, located on Ninth Avenue Northeast, just north of the railroad tracks.
The information indicated that Husky decommissioned the refinery in 1971; the area was a heavy industrial zone with a 30-metre residential buffer; it was 800 metres by 320 metres in size; some of the contaminants in the ground include BTEX, hydrocarbons, and heavy metals; it is a clay-till soil with very low permeability; the groundwater flows southeast; and there are an estimated 80,475 square metres of contaminated soil.
A GIS is a system designed to store, manage, analyze and manipulate geospatial data to present it in a legible format, such as on a map, Brittner explained. It uses geographic data, or data that has a physical component, which is expressed in the real world and is referenced to a location on Earth.
An ArcGIS geodatabase is a software program of geographic data sets held in a universal file folder system. Brittner was able to integrate the physical data components into the ArcGIS so anyone could search out specific values or topics and compare them to the Saskatchewan Environmental Quality Guidelines.
Bringing up a map of the area, Brittner explained what data he used, what he did to interpret it, and how he integrated an inquiry search so users could find contamination on the site that exceeds acceptable guideline levels. He also summarized 40 pages of existing environmental information, while he created an Excel datasheet about soil data and the thousands of data points on the site.
By clicking a folder, the GIS-generated map could show more than a dozen layers, such as boreholes, water wells, test pits, site plans, and groundwater elevations.
As an example, Brittner chose the contaminant Benzene to show how many test points had found the contaminant. A map overlay showed where the location of Benzene, while an adjacent spreadsheet indicated 126 out of 161 data points had found the pollutant. This shows that Benzene had contaminated on-site wells well above acceptable levels.
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