Materials List: Creating Mini Wastewater Treatment Plants

Each group needs:

  • 2-liter clear plastic bottle
  • 2 liters of simulated wastewater containing a predetermined volume of these (or other) contaminants-pollutants; the following mix of materials added to 1.5 liters of water yields a challenging wastewater for students:
    • 5 grams (~1 tablespoon) coffee grounds
    • 40 grams (~2 tablespoons) sand
    • 15 grams (~1 tablespoon) vegetable oil
    • 1 ounce (~2 tablespoons) liquid soap, such as hand or dish soap
    • 30 grams (~2 tablespoons) fertilizer, such as 1.5 lbs of Miracle-Gro all-purpose plant food at Walmart
    • 4 grams of small, brightly colored plastic beads (or similar), such as from a 100-g box of ~6,000 2-mm glass seed beads at Amazon
  • safety goggles, one pair per student
  • rubber gloves, one pair per student
  • paper and pencils, for sketching, planning, data collection, calculating, analysis, reflection
  • Wastewater Design Project Info Sheet, edit as needed to reflect budget, costs and simulated wastewater composition

To share with the entire class:

  • 1-liter stream, lake, pond or lagoon water, for Introduction/Motivation demonstration; alternatively, show a liter amount of the simulated wastewater
  • materials for water quality testing (as determined by the instructor), such as turbidity, pH, dissolved oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, conductivity or any other available tests
  • a water quality testing kit such as the Earth Force Low-Cost Water Quality Monitoring Kit at, which contains multiple tests and student-friendly instructions
  • scale, to measure in milligrams
  • fine-grain sand, ~45 lbs provides ~2 kg per group for a class of 30; such as “scenic sand” at Amazon
  • large gravel, ~45 lbs provides ~2 kg per group for a class of 30; such as 5 lbs “exotic 3/8-inch pebbles polished mixed gravel” for at Amazon
  • small pebbles, ~45 lbs provides ~2 kg per group for a class of 30; aquarium gravel from pet stores works well, such as a 5-lb bag for at Amazon
  • activated charcoal, ~45 lbs provides ~2 kg per group for a class of 30; available in pet stores, such as a 10-lb bag at Amazon
  • algae, such as 50 ml of spirulina culture at Algae Research and Supply
  • coffee filters, such as a pack 100 unbleached #4 size from Walmart
  • cotton mesh/cheese cloth, such as 1.5-square yards at Amazon
  • water and sink
  • (optional) computers with Internet access, for student research