Energy and Environment Research
in Civil and Environmental Engineering

Dakota Bioprocessing Consortium

Dakota Bioprocessing Consortium (DakotaBioCon) brings together researchers from four institutions in two neighboring states, North Dakota and South Dakota, with similar geographical, socio-economic and environmental diversity: North Dakota State University (NDSU), South Dakota State University (SDSU), University of North Dakota (UND) and South Dakota School of Mines & Technology (SDSM&T). The vision of DakotaBioCon is through cutting-edge research and development to become a recognized intellectual leader in biomass bioprocessing that can help our region, nation and global society transition to a biobased economy. The primary goal of DakotaBioCon is to establish a multi-state, multi-institution, multi-disciplinary, collaborative infrastructure to enable and facilitate the development of novel bioprocessing technologies for sustainable production of high-value chemicals and materials from renewable resources, with emphasis on lignin-derived products as economically viable substitutes of imported fossil-fuel based chemicals.  Contact Dr. Lew Christopher for more information.

Riverbank Erosion and Stability on the Missouri River

Riverbank ErosionThe increasing number of extreme climate events is ultimately responsible for severe river flow conditions that cause drought, flooding, and freezing. These conditions alter the hydraulic and geotechnical properties of both the river flow and riverbanks, and eventually make riverbanks more susceptible to bank erosion and mass failure. In South Dakota, sections of the Missouri River have experienced significant loss of riverbanks due to erosion and mass failure, directly affecting several local communities including a Native American tribe. A research team led by Dr. Soonkie Nam at the SDSM&T has teamed up with USGS researchers to experimentally and numerically investigate the riverbanks near Lower Brule, SD.

Particle-Mediated Enhanced Transport of Semi-Volatile Organic Coumpounds in the Indoor Environments

Occupants of buildings are exposed toxic chemicals from the vast number of modern building products and furnishings that continuously release these compounds. The occupants’ burden of toxic semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOC) is significantly affected by proximity to sources in indoor environments. The NSF funded collaborative research effort between SDSM&T, Missouri S&T, Virginia Tech and University of Sydney will carefully combine experimental quantification of relevant parameters (partition and transport phenomena) with model analysis. The results will be used to test theoretical models of particle mediated enhanced emissions and uptake. Further, experimental results and mass-transfer models will be integrated into indoor air quality models to improve predictions of exposure, dose and risk to indoor sources of SVOCs. Contact Dr. Jennifer Benning for more information.

Studying Arsenic Mining Impacts in the Belle Fourche and Cheyenne Rivers

From 1876 to 1977, the Homestake Mine directly discharged mine tailings containing up to 8% arsenic-bearing minerals into Whitewood Creek. From those source tailings, arsenic enriched materials are now found in Whitewood Creek, the Belle Fourche and Cheyenne Rivers, and Lake Oahe. In collaboration with the USGS and US Army Corps of Engineers, Dr. James Stone is studying speciation and interaction of arsenic in sediment and pore water to determine physical, chemical, and biological processes that influence how arsenic is transported from floodplain sediments through water systems. Ultimately, this work will be used for determining reclamation plans for this and other watersheds impacted by mining and arsenic contamination.

Uranium Contamination in the Custer National Forest and Black Hills National Forest

Dr. James Stone’s research team is investigating the fate and transport of heavy metal and radionuclide contaminants from historical and recent uranium mining in Custer and Black Hills National Forests, and the impacts of these contaminants on surrounding watersheds. This project offers great opportunities for those interested in learning how cutting-edge analytical technology such as Scanning Electron Microscopy, Transmission Electron Microscopy, X-ray Diffraction, and Inductively Coupled Mass Spectroscopy, among others, are used to characterize microscopic processes, predict macroscopic phenomena such as transport of contaminants through the environment, and ultimately, to prepare reclamation plans. For more information, visit

Evaluating Stormwater Contamination in Rapid City, South Dakota

Stormwater management is an area of increasing importance to the field of engineering as global climate change increases extreme weather events and continued land development decreases permeable surface area to absorb stormwater runoff. In this research, Dr. Scott Kenner and his team are working to solve a problem of fecal contamination in stormwater runoff in two of Rapid City's major drainage basins. The project seeks to determine the source of contamination, and then evaluate recent stormwater design criteria developed by the city to determine their effectiveness in preventing or mitigating contamination.

Agricultural Life Cycle Assessment Modeling

Agriculture and other industries are turning to engineers to assist them in meeting demands from the marketplace for sustainability and reduction in greenhouse gas production in their operations. With the sponsorship of several agricultural organizations, Dr. James Stone and his colleagues at South Dakota State University are developing several life cycle assessment (LCA) models for all aspects of swine, beef, and feed (corn, soymeal, distillers’ grain) production, including feed growing and harvesting, antibiotic manufacturing, and facility operations. The research team will use these models to identify ways to increase swine production efficiencies, reduce resource consumption and negative environmental impacts, and improve the overall sustainability of these operations.

Modeling the Effect of Urbanization on Two Watersheds in Rapid City, SD

image003-smallContinued urbanization has led to increased volumes of storm water runoff and decreased water quality in many previously forested or suburban watersheds. The goal of this study is to assess the impacts of increased impervious area and its connectedness on water quantity and quality in storm water runoff for two drainage basins in the Rapid Creek watershed in Rapid City, South Dakota. The results of this study emphasize that the level of connection between the impervious surfaces has a significant influence on the volume and peak flow rates occurring at the watershed outlet. This research was funded by the city of Rapid City and an USGS Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit agreement with SDSM&T. For more information, contact Dr. Scott Kenner.  

Remediation of Acid Mine Drainage and Mine Tailings with High Carbon Fly Ash

Mining is one of the most important economic activities in South Dakota, contributing $504 million to the state`s gross domestic product (GDP), according to the National Mining Association (NMA) 2010 report. Even though mining is a very important part of the economy in South Dakota, mining activities may cause significant environmental and human health threats due to the discharge of acidic and toxic water associated with the mining practice to the surrounding natural environment. At the same time, the coal power plant industry has experienced a growth in the production of the waste product high carbon fly ashe (HCFAs) in recent years The objective of this study, led by Dr. Bora Cetin, is to assess the feasibility of using HCFA in the remediation of AMD and mine tailings as a sorptive barrier and amendment, respectively.

Environmental Evaluation of Recycled Concrete Aggregates used in Highway Applications

Cetin research - Recycled Concrete The use of recycled materials (RC) in highway applications is economically feasible and profitable, and reduces energy and virgin natural resource demands on the environment. However, in some cases the environmental impacts associated with RC on groundwater and surface water may exceed the economic benefits such as leaching of metals from these RC aggregates. In addition, the pH of the RC material is very high (pH > 11) and exceeds the EPA Drinking Water Regulations. In this study, Dr. Bora Cetin`s research team is evaluating the environmental impacts of the use of recycled concretes in roadway structures in South Dakota. The leaching of contaminants such as arsenic, chromium, copper, SO42- are being investigated and compared to EPA water quality drinking limits to determine whether the utilization of RCs in such application is environmentally safe.