NC State-ECU Team to Study Wastewater Treatment Alternatives

A constructed wetland

As coastal storms in North Carolina increase in frequency and severity, they pose challenges for municipal wastewater treatment services and the aquaculture industry. To help solve the problems, an NC State University engineer will collaborate with an East Carolina University team see how install ecological engineering wastewater treatment technologies – such as constructed wetlands – perform as low-cost alternatives to traditional treatment methods.

The team was awarded a major University of North Carolina System’s Research Opportunities Initiative grant last week. The funding will allow researchers to better understand microbial communities responsible for nitrogen and phosphorus remediation. The team will also develop novel biosensing and automated water control systems to manage these technologies.

“Though ecologically engineered treatment technologies, or EETTs, have been shown to effectively reduce waterborne contaminants, we still have many design and operations questions about their onsite implementation and returns on investment,” said Steven Hall, who will be involved in the project.

Hall is an associate professor in NC State’s Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering. Assistant Professor Natasha Bell, of ECU’s Department of Engineering, will lead the study.

 The research team is made up of university biologists, chemists, economists, engineers and others.

During the three-year project, the team will install a series of onsite EETTs at Pitt County’s wastewater treatment facility and NC State’s Marine Aquaculture Research Center in Carteret County. The researchers will examine the EETTs’ technological and economic viability as alternatives to traditional wastewater treatment plants.

The UNC System’s Research Opportunities Initiative is funded by the North Carolina General Assembly to promote innovative and collaborative research projects for potentially game-changing research projects. Priority areas are pharmacoengineering, advanced manufacturing, energy, data science, marine sciences, and military and security-related issues.

 The funding supports projects with the intent of enhancing national or international recognition and providing a competitive edge in pursuit of large-scale research funding. The grants exceed $3.5 million and will be distributed in yearly installments.