Water Filter for Uranium, Arsenic, and Bacteria Removal

team Sublime EngineeringFrom left to right: Cheryl Dilks, Yujie Sun, Tristan Weir, Dan Cummings
Photo Credit: Shayla Woodhouse

Project Purpose

The purpose of this project is to provide a design for a low-cost, electricity-free water filtration unit capable of reducing uranium, arsenic, and coliforms to concentrations at or below their Maximum Contaminant Limits (MCLs), as established by the United States EPA (USEPA), in order to provide safe drinking water to the residents of the former Bennett Freeze Area (BFA) of the Navajo Nation. 

The proposed location for the use of this water filtration unit is the 2 million acre area on the Navajo Nation known as the former Bennett Freeze Area, which is occupied by approximately 20,000 individuals residing in an estimated 3,688 homes. Of the 3,688 homes, it is estimated that 2,685 (72.8%) do not have access to a regulated public water supply (Navajo Access Workgroup, 2010). Unregulated water sources include groundwater wells, surface water deposits, springs, and man-made livestock tanks (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2000). Due to a combination of naturally occurring uranium deposits and abandoned uranium mines, many unregulated water sources have expressed high concentrations of uranium. Unregulated water sources have also shown elevated concentrations of arsenic from natural sources and tested positive for coliforms (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2000).

Project Client

Forgotten People:

A non-profit organization that advocates for the well-being of the residents of the former Bennett Freeze area of the Navaho Nation by coordinating with other organizations interested in infrastructure development projects within the area.

Website: http://forgottennavajopeople.org/
Contact: Marsha Monestersky, Program Director at forgottenpeoplecdc@gmail.com

Technical Advisor

Dr. Paul Gremillion- Associate Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering

Dr. Paul Gemillion
Photo Credit: NAU CEFNS

Website: http://nau.edu/CEFNS/Engineering/Civil-Environmental/Directory/Gremillion-Paul/
Contact: Paul.Gremillion@nau.edu

Team Sublime Engineering

team Sublime Engineering
From left to right: Tristan Weir, Yujie Sun, Dan Cummings, Cheryl Dilks
Photo Credit: Shayla Woodhouse


team member photoDaniel Cummings - Project Engineer


Daniel is a senior at Northern Arizona University working toward a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering with a minor in Mechanical Engineering. Daniel plans to graduate in May 2014. He has interned for the Corporate Environmental, Health and Safety Department of ANH Refractories, a refractory manufacturing company headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA. He hopes to obtain a full-time position for an engineering firm focused on environmental remediation efforts or in the environmental department of a manufacturing or industrial processing company.
Photo Credit: Cheryl Dilks



team member photoCheryl Dilks - Project Engineer


Cheryl is originally from the Philadelphia area where she graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.A. in Sociology from Arcadia University. She is currently a senior at Northern Arizona University, studying for her second Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering with a minor in chemistry. She has interned for the Analytical Chemistry Research and Development Team and the Environmental Health and Safety Team at W.L. Gore & Associates. She is the President of NAU’s Chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) and previously served as the EWB Project Lead for a solar-powered irrigation project on the Navajo Nation. Cheryl will graduate in May 2014, and she will seek full-time employment with drinking water and wastewater treatment design firms. She would eventually like to pursue a Master’s degree in Environmental Engineering with an International Development emphasis. Her interests include hiking, rock climbing, and visiting places less traveled, such as North Korea and Myanmar.
Photo Credit: Shayla Woodhouse



team member photoYujie Sun - Project Engineer


Yujie is an international student from ChengDu, China. He is currently a senior at Northern Arizona University pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Engineering. He has interned for Dr. Paul Gremillion to evaluate the impacts of the Navajo Generating Station on the northern Arizona landscape through the analysis of soil and vegetation. Yujie will graduate in May 2014, and he is applying to graduate schools to pursue a Master of Science in Environmental Engineering with a concentration in Water Quality and Water Resources Engineering. His favorite hobbies include playing badminton and the piano.
Photo Credit: Cheryl Dilks



team member photo
Tristan Weir - Project Engineer


Tristan is originally from the United Kingdom but spent most of his life in New England. He attended the University of Connecticut from 2005 to 2009 and graduated with a B.A. in English. While pursuing his English degree, Tristan aided with several research projects as a research specialist for the Center for Environmental Sciences and Engineering under the supervision of Dr. Mark Rudnicki and Dr. Vincent Webb and contributed to experimental design, paper writing, logistics, and field implementation. The focus of this research was to observe tree windthrow to further understand the relationship between forest canopies and the lower atmosphere with applications in meteorological forecast models and forest management. Tristan aided in the design and implementation of a multi-university, NSF funded large eddy simulation intended to further enhance the understanding of these effects in the summer of 2009 before relocating to Arizona. He resumed his studies at Northern Arizona University in 2010 where he is currently pursuing a B.S. in Environmental Engineering and will graduate in May 2014. Following graduation, Tristan seeks to gain employment under the tutelage of experienced Environmental Engineers in the water and wastewater treatment or remediation fields.
Photo Credit: Cheryl Dilks


The team would like to extend their gratitude to numerous individuals for their time and assistance in completing this project.

  • Dr. Paul Gremillion of Northern Arizona University for his technological guidance
  • Dr. Michael Ketterer of Metropolitan State College of Denver for performing the uranium and arsenic testing and analysis
  • Dr. Bridget Bero of Northern Arizona University for providing project guidance
  • Dr. Wilbert Odem of Northern Arizona University for donating his well water
  • Dr. Terry Baxter of Northern Arizona University for assisting with laboratory needs
  • The staff at Lake Mary Water Treatment Plant in Flagstaff, Arizona for allowing us to acquire untreated Lake Mary water from their tap
  • Emerson Jones of Northern Arizona University for creating SolidWorks drawings of the final recommended design