As a summer intern with the Water Recycling Facility at WestRock in Solvay, N.Y., Ryan Ratsep ’17 is developing his chemical analysis skills and his understanding of the intersection of geoscience and environmental studies.
WestRock is a leading global packaging company specializing in paper and packaging solutions in global consumer and corrugated markets. Ratsep explains that the main goal of the company’s Water Recycling Facility “is to clean and recycle the water coming from the paper mill so that it can be safely sent to the Syracuse water treatment plant, and be used in the nearby boiler room to create steam, which is sent back and used in the main plant.”
During his internship this summer, Ratsep — a geoscience major, with a concentration in hydrology and meteorology, and environmental studies minor — is testing water samples for chemical oxygen demand, turbidity, ammonia, conductivity, alkalinity and hardness both daily and weekly, using methods such as photospectrometry and titration.
“WestRock uses a state of the art anaerobic and aerobic digestion method to limit and decrease the amount of carbonaceous materials in the water coming from the main mill,” he says. “It is important to test the chemistry of the water so that the bacteria are productive and consume starch, and release methane, which is used in a nearby boiler building.”
As he has pursued his interests in geoscience and environmental studies on campus, Ratsep says his perspectives have broadened “to critically think about our planet in a new way.” His experience at the Finger Lakes Institute working during the summer and fall of 2015, and his work with Professor of Environmental Studies John Halfman have prepared him for the hydrologic testing procedures that he is utilizing at WestRock.
“This internship is great because I get to learn new testing procedures, test for more water quality parameters, and see firsthand how chemicals affect the quality of the water,” Ratsep says. “This internship is already giving me more confidence in a lab setting, a better understanding and conception of fresh water chemistry, and great analysis skills that I can bring back and use not only in my geoscience courses, but any course.”
In the photo above, Ryan Ratsep ’17 prepares and filters samples for a chemical oxygen demand test during his summer internship at WestRock’s Water Recycling Facility in Solvay, N.Y.