Real-Time, In-Line Sensor for Wastewater Monitoring

EPA Contract Number: EPD12014
Title: Real-Time, In-Line Sensor for Wastewater Monitoring
Investigators: Tomczak, Melanie
Small Business: UES Inc.
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: I
Project Period: March 1, 2012 through August 31, 2012
Project Amount: $80,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2012) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) , SBIR - Wastewater, Stormwater, and Water Reuse


A consistent clean water supply is crucial to a stable and healthy population. Contamination of water resources with biological agents or toxins is concerning as clean water becomes a limited resource in society. The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Systems (NPDES) permitting program requires permits for industrial and municipal water treatment facilities that discharge directly to surface water. These facilities are required to monitor pollution via indicator-bacteria organisms, such as fecal coliforms and E. coli. The current state-of-the-art for water quality monitoring includes physical sampling followed by transport to laboratories for analysis, which takes hours or days to determine contamination. There are three main problems with this approach: (1) it does not allow for identification of the contamination source; (2) it does not allow for tracking the contamination path further down the water supply chain; and (3) by the time samples have been analyzed, the pollutants already have been released in the effluent. The UES technology proposed here detects biological agents and toxins in real time by directly monitoring the water supply source with an in-line sensor. This proposed in-line sensor detects and reports contamination in less than 5 minutes. The sensor is compact and versatile, can be used under various flow rate and treatment conditions, and detects contaminants in real time. Additionally, the platform is “generic” in that ligands for different agents of interest can be integrated and the entire sensor can be multiplexed to detect many different pathogens simultaneously The actual sensor platform is small (about the size of a credit card for a multiplexed system) and can be packaged in different types of housing or configurations for different applications, including in-line, hand-held and remote-deployed situations.
The social impact of this technology would be tremendous. Tracking contaminants in real time at various levels of the wastewater treatment process would lead to rapid identification of the source(s) of contamination or location of a shortfall in the treatment process. The Obama administration has established the Water Technology Innovation Cluster (WTIC), from EPA’s Cincinnati location, to bring together groups developing innovative water technologies in the Cincinnati-Dayton-Northern Kentucky-Indiana region. UES was an initial member of WTIC and our CEO/President, Dr. Nina Joshi, sits on WTIC's board. Clearly, the current administration believes technologies that ensure and protect clean water are an area in which to invest. UES’ technology proposed here redefines the state-of-the-art for wastewater monitoring and prevention of biological toxins being released into the environment.

Supplemental Keywords:

wastewater, wastewater treatment, contamination, toxin, biological agent, pollution, effluent, clean water, indicator-bacteria organisms, water quality monitoring, wastewater monitoring, Water Technology Innovation Cluster, WTIC, SBIR, rapid detection, real time monitoring, in-line sensor

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report