Enhanced Nutrient Removal from On-Site Wastewater Treatment Systems

EPA Grant Number: SU833545
Title: Enhanced Nutrient Removal from On-Site Wastewater Treatment Systems
Investigators: Hu, Zhiqiang , Thompson, Allen , Trauth, Kathleen M.
Current Investigators: Hu, Zhiqiang , Cole, Jamie , Liang, Zhihua , MaCulloch, Andrew , Nguyen, Huy , Thompson, Allen , Trauth, Kathleen M.
Institution: University of Missouri - Columbia
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: I
Project Period: August 30, 2007 through August 29, 2008
Project Amount: $10,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2007) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Nanotechnology , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Water , P3 Awards , Sustainability


Nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) runoffs impact streams and ecosystems. Furthermore, on-site wastewater treatment systems are important sources of nutrient discharges because effluents from septic tanks typically contain high concentrations of organic matter, nitrogen and phosphorus. It is therefore urgent to develop cost-effective and efficient environmental technologies to remove the nutrients from septic systems.


The research objective of this interdisciplinary student team is to develop an iron-assisted membrane aerated reactor system for efficient nitrogen and phosphorus removal from domestic wastewater. In the proposed research, a gas-permeable membrane will be applied as a carrier for aeration and nitrifying biofilm formation, and further, metallic iron materials will be introduced in anoxic basins to promote abiotic denitrification and chemical phosphorus precipitation. We will explore the limits of technology (LOT) for nutrient removal by characterizing attainable effluent nutrient concentrations and will develop a membrane-aerated modular unit for pilot testing.


The developed modular unit at an affordable price will be readily adapted for use in septic tanks so that the concern for operation, maintenance, and process control of sophisticated technology can be largely eliminated. The minimum amount of iron-enriched sludge generated in the systems will immobilize the phosphorus, and thus making the residue suitable for land application while minimizing nutrient leaching into groundwater or runoff into streams and ecosystems. It is anticipated that people in both developed and developing countries have the potential to gain a double benefit by simultaneously capturing valued products (P-rich sludge as a fertilizer) and reducing pollutant (e.g., ammonia, phosphate, and methane) emissions. The development of this largely passive technology will also provide excellent training and service learning opportunities in wastewater treatment and sustainable environment for the participating students.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 2 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

waste reduction, wastewater treatment, nutrient removal, treatment/control, engineering, clean technologies, environmental engineering, innovative technology, environmental chemistry, biotechnology, adsorption, community-based, sustainable environment, green chemistry,

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report