Great Lakes Research Consortium funds innovative wastewater treatment project at UB

By Peter Murphy

Published July 23, 2019

Two assistant professors in the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering have been awarded funding for their project exploring ways to enhance wastewater treatment and reduce toxic substances.

Degradation of toxic substances

The project, titled Towards Complete Removal of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Using a Nanotechnology-Assisted Advanced Water Treatment Process, uses different techniques to remove PFAS during the wastewater treatment process.

The principal investigator (PI) Nirupam Aich and co-PI Ian Bradley will combine their expertise to completely degrade PFAS, which have been identified as a priority for removal from drinking water and food sources by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“The project idea is that nanomaterials Nirupam [Aich] uses might degrade PFAS sufficiently for our more traditional treatment to fully degrade them,” says Bradley.

PFAS are organic compounds extensively used in non-sticky consumer products and water-based fire-fighting foams. These substances are highly toxic to living organisms, including fish and humans.

Aich’s research topics include sustainable use of advanced and multifunctional nanomaterials for water quality engineering, i.e., groundwater, drinking water and wastewater treatment for removing legacy and emerging pollutants. Bradley’s focus is on creating sustainable biological processes to address needs in engineered and natural systems for water and wastewater treatment and resource recovery. This project presents a logical topic for their collaboration.

After Aich uses nanomaterials to degrade the PFAS, Bradley and his students will put the PFAS through traditional biological wastewater treatment. “We will be putting them in a wastewater reactor with bacteria to see if we can get additional removal once they have been pretreated,” Bradley says, “students will run wastewater biological reactors in my lab using equipment we have, take samples and measure degradation.”

The Great Lakes Consortium announced $121,916 in grants for five projects. Diana S. Aga, professor in the Department of Chemistry and Don Willert, Town of Amherst Wastewater Treatment Plant are collaborators on UB’s project.