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Building The Better Oil/Water Separator An Environmental Engineering Design Laboratory

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.114.1 - 4.114.11

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Paper Authors

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Johm W. Duggan

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Francis J. Hopcroft

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 3551

Building the Better Oil/Water Separator An Environmental Engineering Design Laboratory John W. Duggan, Ph.D. and Francis J. Hopcroft, P.E., L.S.P. Wentworth Institute of Technology


This laboratory was developed as an introductory Capstone Design module. The four-week laboratory requires students to apply process design, fabrication and performance evaluation concepts to one of the most fundamental unit operations of environmental engineering, an oil/water separator. Results of the laboratory have been used to identify areas in need of improvement in the overall engineering qualifications of individual students. Student performance in this laboratory is also being used as an assessment instrument to measure the achievement of objectives in Wentworth’s environmental engineering program.

Working in teams, students are given the task of designing, building, operating and evaluating a system to treat a steady-state flow of wastewater with components of oil, water, dissolved and settleable solids. Treatment criteria consistent with regulatory limits are given including: water effluent limits for dissolved solids and oil and grease; water content in the retained oil phase; and oil content in the retained settleable solids phase. Few design boundaries are imposed upon the teams other than the requirement that the majority of the as-built system be constructed of materials available in the laboratory (such as 5 gallon buckets, flexible tubing, valves, clamps and variable speed pumps). Performance evaluation is similarly left open to interpretation and serves to promote the independent discovery of the merits of relevant standard methods of wastewater analysis.

This paper describes the design of the laboratory both in terms of how the laboratory is performed and in terms of how the laboratory fits into the scheme of Wentworth’s environmental engineering curriculum. Results of student work are given in this paper to show design innovation and the application of engineering fundamentals. The paper also describes how the results of the laboratory are used in the Wentworth environmental engineering program self- assessment for ABET 2000.

I. Introduction

Wentworth Institute of Technology has both a long tradition and a continued commitment to experiential learning. The environmental engineering program at Wentworth is a laboratory-

Duggan, J. W., & Hopcroft, F. J. (1999, June), Building The Better Oil/Water Separator An Environmental Engineering Design Laboratory Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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