SOCORRO, N.M., May 23, 2002 -- A team of New Mexico Tech environmental engineering students finished first in an environmental cleanup task at the 12th Annual Waste-Management Education and Research Consortium (WERC) International Environmental Design Contest, held last month at New Mexico State University.

New Mexico Tech team members David Ladner, Sara Lubchenco, Chris Michel, and Jeremy Siebert also were awarded $2,500 for the first-place design they submitted in the "Task 8" project.

The specific environmental problem posed in Task 8 required competing teams to detect explosives in soils in a hypothetical "Superfund" site that had once been used for military training, and then cleanup and remediate the soil contamination that ensued
from the use of explosives on the site.

The innovative solution presented by the New Mexico Tech team involved using zero-valent iron, along with spinach extract, to remediate the explosives-contaminated soils.

During the contest, about 40 teams comprised of more than 350 university and high school students from across North America demonstrated processes and equipment to remediate pollution problems similar to ones that could possibly occur in real-life situations in public, private, and government settings.

Written, oral, and poster presentations, as well as fully operational bench-scale models of the submitted designs, were presented by the teams in front of a panel of judges made up of more than 90 professionals from academia and industry.

Teams from New Mexico Tech have also fared well in past WERC environmental design contests, typically placing either first or second in their tasks since they first began competing in the WERC-sponsored competitions in the mid-1990s.