Veolia Water NA funds research into emerging water issues

April 22, 2009
Underscoring the importance of ongoing water research that can affect Great Lakes cities, Veolia Water North America is funding a $1.5 million, 10-year research and development program...

MILWAUKEE, WI, Apr. 22, 2009 -- Underscoring the importance of ongoing water research that can affect Great Lakes cities, 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 green house 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 green house 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 Dr. Rebecca Klaper of the Great Lakes WATER Institute at the University of Wisconsin -- Milwaukee, 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 issue of pharmaceuticals in the environment and the potential for their reach into drinking water systems has increasingly become a public health concern. The results of this research can improve water quality by helping determine which compounds are most critical for monitoring and removal. MMSD will co-fund this research.

The second project, led by Dr. Dan Zitomer 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 utilize 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.

In addition to the cost savings from capturing methane, there is also potential for reduction in the green house gas footprint for the treatment facilities.

The third project, conducted by Dr. Jim Waples of the Great Lakes WATER Institute at the University of Wisconsin -- Milwaukee, 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 non-point 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 in North America.

"Support of our clients' communities takes many forms," explained Laurent Auguste, president and CEO of Veolia Water Americas. "We are thinking beyond wastewater treatment and, globally, we are focusing most of our R&D on activities that preserve and protect our environment.

Endocrine disruptors are garnering global concern and so we are especially pleased to be co-funding this particular research with MMSD."

Veolia Water North America is the leading provider of comprehensive water and wastewater partnership services to municipal and industrial customers, providing services to more than 14 million people in approximately 600 communities. Veolia Water, the water division of Veolia Environnement, is the world leader in water and wastewater services.