Veolia Water Funds Milwaukee R&D for $1.5 M

Veolia Water North America is funding a $1.5 million, 10-year research and development program, in partnership with the Great Lakes WATER Institute at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, Marquette University, and the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD).

Three research projects have been selected for immediate funding that will aim to:

  • understand the existence of pharmaceuticals in watersheds and their potential elimination through wastewater treatment;
  • determine potential improvements in wastewater treatment processes to generate methane gas as an alternative energy sources and to reduce greenhouse gases; and,
  • determine sources and quantities for phosphorous (which can cause algal blooms and odor issues in waterways and on beaches) entering the Milwaukee watershed and the path of flow into Lake Michigan.

“This research represents an exceptional way to advance wastewater treatment and positively impact not only Great Lakes communities but cities around the world,” said Chibby Alloway, chief technology officer of Veolia Water North America. “As new residuals, such as pharmaceuticals, are detected in the Earth’s waters, it is critical that we understand their presence and pursue cutting-edge processes to remove them. The research body aims for important improvements in alternative energy and greenhouse gas reduction, as well as water quality improvements in watersheds that will enhance the quality of life for many people. Even in the current global economy, R&D investments must continue to be made.”

The first project, led by Rebecca Klaper, Ph.D., of the Great Lakes WATER Institute, entails groundbreaking research that will measure and monitor pharmaceuticals, such as endocrine disruptors, in the Milwaukee watershed, the potential for removing them during the treatment process at MMSD facilities operated by Veolia Water, and the subsequent discharge of pharmaceutical compounds that remain untreated and are re-released into Lake Michigan.

The second project, led by Dan Zitomer, Ph.D., of Marquette University, will focus on process improvements in wastewater treatment that can reduce residuals (solids) and increase the availability of methane gas as an alternative energy source. MMSD treatment facilities currently use methane biogas as an energy source. Practical applications from this research could result in increased renewable energy equivalent to 23,000 dekatherms per year valued at approximately $138,000 annual energy cost savings.

The third project, conducted by Jim Waples, Ph.D., of the Great Lakes WATER Institute, focuses on understanding how nutrients are transported from a watershed to a river and how climate and land use can affect this transfer. Nutrients, such as phosphorus, can stimulate nuisance algal blooms. This research can help assess the effectiveness of current models that regulate nutrient loading into the Milwaukee-area watershed and Lake Michigan. It can also assist MMSD in shaping local opinion on point and nonpoint nutrient discharge regulations.

“The ability of Veolia Water to support research at this level is a new and important element to our partnership,” explained Kevin Shafer, MMSD executive director. “The Great Lakes, water quality, and the people of our region are all beneficiaries of partnering with a company that has the capacity to advance water research in a way that will truly impact our community.”

Veolia Water teamed up with these institutions to develop a selection process to fund research projects that have immediate or near-term operating applications and results. A committee comprised of Veolia Water, MMSD, Great Lakes WATER Institute, University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee and Marquette University developed a matrix that scored research capabilities against local needs. Proposals were scored utilizing the matrix, with those showing promise for imminent commercial applications racking up more points.

Veolia Water North America began operations and maintenance of Milwaukee’s Jones Island and South Shore treatment water reclamation facilities in March, 2008, under contract to Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District. The two wastewater treatment plants have a combined processing capacity of 630 million gallons per day. The project is the largest wastewater public-private partnership.