"Environment" research area

Seed Grant Recipients Summer 2019

MnDRIVE Environment is pleased to announce two new Seed Grant recipients. The Seed Grant program provides early-stage funding for promising new bioremediation research. For more information about funding opportunities through MnDRIVE Environment, please see our Funding Page or contact mndrive-env@umn.edu

Exploring multiple operating scenarios to identify low-cost, high nitrate removal strategies for electrically-stimulated surface flow wetlands

Principal Investigator: Sebastian Behrens

This project explores the possibility of merging microbial electrochemical technologies with constructed wetlands offering a new option for enhanced wetland nutrient capture that will maintain a high performance at a lower footprint. Constructed wetlands have been extensively investigated as a best management practice to reduce nitrogen loads in effluents from agricultural lands. Wetland systems are considered to be a robust and cost-effective technology that requires low operation and maintenance efforts. However, the major drawbacks of implementation are area footprint and cold temperature performance. The objectives of this study are the development of an microbial electrochemically-stimulated, constructed wetland system and the evaluation of its nitrate removal cost. An improved design that increase electron availability to microbial denitrification will result in increased denitrification efficiency, and reduce the removal cost for nitrate per unit surface area.

Bioremediation of Polluted Waters Using Microorganisms – Enhancing Cold Temperature Nitrification During Wastewater Treatment

Principal Investigator: Tim LaPara

Co-Principal Investigator: Sebastian Behrens

This project will investigate the activity of nitrifying microbial populations during the winter months in Minnesota’s wastewater treatment facilities. These microorganisms are critically important for protecting Minnesota’s surface water quality. Nitrifying bacteria are exceptionally sensitive to cold temperatures, such that ammonia discharges from wastewater treatment facilities are typically not regulated from November through April. Research is needed to better understand these microorganisms to better protect Minnesota’s surface water quality, to optimize energy consumption for wastewater treatment, and to better remove nutrients and other contaminants of emerging concern from Minnesota’s wastewaters. Ammonia is a critically important environmental pollutant because of its toxicity to fish, its contribution to eutrophication (i.e., excessive growth of weeds and algae in lakes and streams), and its cost of treatment. Ammonia is not typically a primary pollutant (i.e., directly released to the environment), but instead forms as proteins decompose. Because municipal wastewater contains a substantial quantity of protein, ammonia is a particularly important pollutant to wastewater treatment plant operators. Ammonia is one of the most difficult pollutants to remove from wastewater because it requires significant aeration to fully treat (which is expensive) and the organisms that consume ammonia are very slow-growing. The data generated in this project will enable the development of predictive performance models that will improve bioreactor design and operational conditions for wastewater treatment plants in temperate climate zones to help them achieve reliable nitrification performance at all seasons.