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Gannon launching $24-million project to protect freshwater, strengthen Erie

Published: 12/07/2022

Project NePTWNE at Gannon University

Project NePTWNE at Gannon University

(Read the full piece here: WJET/WFXP/

It helps to have a little foresight — a family visits Erie and they take a trip to the Bicentennial Tower on the Bayfront. When they’re done exploring the tower, they don’t immediately pack into their cars and head back to the Interstate; instead, they walk over to the Great Lakes Research and Education Center on the marina. Inside, they get to see local fish in aquarium tanks, they get a tour of the facility and learn about how Gannon University is working to protect the water quality of Lake Erie.

(Read the full piece here: WJET/WFXP/

When they’re done at the research and education center, the family walks a couple of blocks through Gannon’s campus to get a tour of greenhouses that are growing native species to replace invasive plants on Presque Isle, and plants and vegetables for the Erie Community.

Then, they walk to the I-HACK building, up to the sixth floor, where machinery is whirring and 3-D printers are creating equipment that’s used to test and clean Lake Erie. Between the Bicentennial Tower and the three tours, maybe it’s about lunch time and they stop into a local restaurant for some food. Then they’re off to Presque Isle State Park to enjoy a hike, or just a calm afternoon on the beach.

It might seem like a distant plan, but it’s already underway. Gannon University has signed a lease for the Historic Union Fish Company Building. In two weeks, manufacturing will begin on the sixth floor of the I-HACK building. The university has entered a partnership with the Regional Science Consortium for greenhouses, and those will be built in the spring when the ground thaws.

The plans have been in the works for about two years.

“This isn’t theoretical — it’s going. Some of the dominoes needed to fall before we announced the project,” said Dr. Walter Iwanenko, provost and vice president for student experience at Gannon University.

Project NePTWNE (pronounced like the Roman god, Neptune, who reigned over the sea) is a $24-million project that will be completed in phases. The unconventional spelling is an acronym for “Nano & Polymer Technology for Water and Neural-Networks in Erie.” The university follows the Neptune theme and has created a logo for the project featuring a Trident. The trident represents a three-tiered goal for the project which aims to “measure, mitigate and manufacture.” Essentially, the university hopes the project will put it at the forefront of freshwater research, and with it, elevate the city of Erie and the region with it.

“Fresh water is such an important resource, especially as certain areas are losing freshwater around the world. We want to make sure we’re protecting the resource in our own backyard,” Iwanenko said. “This is an environmental sustainability program. We hope to address water quality, climate change, economic development, and the overall quality of life in Erie.”

(Read the full piece here: WJET/WFXP/ 

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