Water district, EPA team up to solve water quality problem with biodenitrification

Jan. 11, 2011
RIVERSIDE, CA, Jan. 10, 2011 -- Western Municipal Water District has received federal funding to proceed with its new biodenitrification system design at its Arlington Desalter...

RIVERSIDE, CA, Jan. 10, 2011 -- Western Municipal Water District today announced the award of $528,000 in federal funding from the Environmental Protection Agency to proceed with its new biodenitrification system design at its Arlington Desalter.

"Nitrate is one of the most common groundwater contaminants in the nation, and perchlorate impacts the drinking water supplies of 41 million consumers in 22 states," said Brenda Dennstedt, president of Western's Board of Directors. "Western is pleased to spearhead a solution that improves water quality and supply reliability for western Riverside County while also delivering potential water quality solutions for communities all across the U.S."

Western has already completed a pilot study and preliminary design on the project. Next steps will be to complete final design and prepare construction plans to build new treatment facilities at the desalter. "Completing the design is a critical step that will maintain momentum to attract state and federal support to complete construction of the project," said John V. Rossi, general manager for Western.

Western successfully conducted a pilot program using biological technology to completely remove several harmful chemicals from drinking water. WMWD, in cooperation with the California Department of Public Health and Carollo Engineers, conducted six months of tests with the system at Western's Arlington Desalter facility in Riverside.

The non-proprietary technology, known as biodenitrification, was developed in Europe and has been widely used there for three decades to purify drinking water. Biodenitrification systems use microorganisms that are harmless to humans to remove toxic chemicals known as nitrates from water. The organisms metabolize chemicals like nitrate and perchlorate as a food source, thereby converting them to harmless by-products like nitrogen gas, chloride, and water. Most other nitrate removal technologies simply separate nitrate and perchlorate into a concentrated waste stream that ultimately gets discharged back into the environment.

During a rigorous testing regimen coordinated with the California Department of Public Health, the biodenitrification system was put through a variety of scenarios to ensure its reliability, safety and stability. In all cases, the system was able to ensure destruction of nitrate and perchlorate found in the groundwater.

The American Water Works Association recently formed its Biological Drinking Water Treatment Committee in recognition of the need to advance new water treatment technology to address the nation's highest priority drinking water issues. Biological treatment successfully and sustainably addresses one of the greatest health concerns related to tap water today -- nitrates. The real strength of the technology is that it destroys nitrates and perchlorate instead of shifting those contaminants to some other part of the environment.In addition to nitrate and perchlorate, this biological treatment process can degrade other harmful chemicals commonly found in groundwater, such asperchloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethylene (TCE). Similarly, these chemicals are removed by microorganisms without producing any significant byproducts.

"We applaud Western for taking a leadership role in pioneering this technology in the United States," Congressman Ken Calvert said. "This process will help water districts all over the nation use a clean, safe and environmentally friendly way to treat groundwater contaminated by nitrates, perchlorate and TCE." Congressman Calvert was instrumental in securing funding through the Environmental Protection Agency for the development of biodenitrification solutions at Western's Arlington Desalter facility.