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Putting a focus on water-related issues

Water-related issues are increasingly becoming a driving force for economic growth, social well-being, and a healthy population in Canada and around the world. This critical interest is reflected in the diversity of water-related research and education initiatives at the Beaty Water Research Centre (BWRC), which recently moved into its state-of-the-art research facilities in Mitchell Hall, the result of a generous gift from geologist and entrepreneur Ross J. Beaty.

The BWRC encourages collaborative interdisciplinary research, education and outreach, spanning traditional water-related disciplines, as well as non-traditional and emerging disciplines. Recent highlights include new research funding and the launch of the BWRC’s first on-line interdisciplinary graduate program in Water and Human Health (WHH GDip)

[Pascale Champagne]
Pascale Champagne (Civil Engineering), director of the Beaty Water Research Centre, and her master’s student Nicole Woodcock, recently received research funding from the NSERC Engage and the Ontario Centre of Excellence Voucher for Innovation and Productivity I (VIP I) programs. (University Communications)

Collaborative research to prevent tailing mine failures

BWRC Director Pascale Champagne (Civil Engineering) and her master’s student Nicole Woodcock recently received research funding from the National Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Engage program ($20,000), and the Ontario Centre of Excellence Voucher for Innovation and Productivity I (VIP I) program ($25,000), to assess the feasibility of using microbially-induced calcite precipitation (MICP) to improve the deposit performance of tailings.

[BWRC]“This research is crucial given that tailing dam failures risk human life, destroy property and communities, contaminate rivers, fisheries and drinking water,” Dr. Champagne says. “Earlier this year hundreds lost their lives in the tailings dam collapse in Brazil which was just one of many major tailings dam disaster in the last decade.”

Tailings are by-products from mining operations. Mine tailing particulates easily diffuse into the surrounding environment, leaching acidic drainage and heavy metals to surface and groundwater. Without treatment these tailings can take several hundred years to consolidate due to their poor water-releasing properties, and, in some cases failure to consolidate has led to catastrophic disasters.

[Nicole Woodcock]
Nicole Woodcock

“Recent studies suggest biologically-catalyzed reactions can be used to increase the geotechnical strength of soft soils,” Woodcock says. “The application of this process to tailings has the potential to remediate and reduce the risk of tailing dam failures.”    

“The Beaty Water Research Centre encourages partnerships with industrial and non-industrial partners to tackle import issues,” adds Jyoti Kotecha, Associate Director Research & Business Development for BWRC. “Our state-of-the-art facilities in Mitchell Hall allow us to increase the scale of our research activities. We are looking forward to working with BGC Engineering Inc. on this important research.”

BGC Engineering Inc. is a private, employee-owned Canadian company with expertise in mine waste engineering and mine closure planning and design.

Preparing the future workforce

With support from the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the BWRC is launching a new online, interdisciplinary graduate diploma program in Water and Human Health (WHH GDip), in May 2019.

“The Water and Human Health program will provide enhanced training for students from different disciplines and highlights a cross disciplinary approach to issues related to water and health,” says Dr. Champagne. “The program is the first of its kind in Canada, and positions Queen’s as a leader in interdisciplinary graduate education.”

The WHH GDip program can be completed on a full-time basis in four months through four online courses. Upon successful completion participants will receive a graduate diploma from Queen’s, giving them a competitive edge in their future careers. The diploma, although a standalone offering, can also be applied to course-work required for a course-based or research master’s program offered in a number of departments and faculties at Queen’s.

“This program will offer in-depth knowledge related to the chemical, biological and physical components of water, while also capturing global environment policy implications, to provide participants of the program a better understanding of the impacts of water on public health,” says Dr. Hall, Associate Director of Education & Outreach for BWRC. “The WHH GDip program is the first of several interdisciplinary graduate diploma programs that BWRC will be launching over the next five years.”

Find out more about the Beaty Water Research Centre.

[Water and Human Health]