New Mexico Supercomputing Challenge

Navajo Uranium Mining Contamination Clean Up

Team: 51

School: Edgewood Mid

Area of Science: Enviormental


Interim: Problem definition
In San Juan County, New Mexico there was uranium mining that occurred from the 1940’s to the 1980’s. These contaminants from the drilling have gone into the soil and contaminated many aquifers. This is a real threat because some of the aquifers that they have contaminated are main water sources. This is also a threat to the people living there, uranium is highly dangerous and can cause many health issues. The goal for this project is to create a computer model showing how Geobacter can clean-up the aquifers that are contaminated with uranium and return them to a safe, useable level again. If there is not action took to clean the uranium this can cause a huge health threat for their county. Some of the health problems that can occur from intake of uranium, high blood pressure, depression, miscarriages, eye problems, and cancer.

Project solution
By using Geobacter we will be able to return the contaminated aquifers back to a safe level again. We would show this by using a computer model. In the computer for every two uranium we would have 1 Geobacter. There are Geobacter already present in the environment but that is not enough so we would have to put more into the soil. Geobacter sends out a nanowire to connect with the uranium particles and sends electrons making it easier to remove when it come time to it.

Progress to date
We have done more research on Geobacter and we have found that they use a nanowire called pilus. This wire connects to the uranium and adds electrons to it so it neutralizes it. The pilus is made from proteins but it can still conducts electricity. When it does connect to another species it is called DIET. Direct Interspecies Electron Transfer.

Expected results
After the computer modeling we expect that Geobacter will be able to neutralize all the uranium in the aquifers in a reasonable amount of time. Once the Geobacter neutralizes the uranium it will be easier for them to remove it. Once the Geobacter neutralizes the uranium we expect that it will reach the safe amount of uranium in water so who ever might use the uranium will be able to use it safely for crops and to use for their animals. That is one way so many people got sick, the farmers used the contaminated water for their crops and sent it to the market and then the people ate it making them also have uranium making them sick and same happened with animals.

Resources
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pilus
http://www.geobacter.org/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geobacter_sulfurreducens
http://microbewiki.kenyon.edu/index.php/Geobacter_sulfurreducens
http://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2014/ee/c3ee42189a#!divAbstract


Team Members:

  Pete Talamante

Sponsoring Teacher: Janice Portillo

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