Year Established: 2015 Start Date: 2015-03-01 End Date: 2016-02-29
Total Federal Funds: $20,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $68,030
Principal Investigators: William Strosnider
Abstract: Acid mine drainage (AMD) and municipal wastewater (MWW) are two of the greatest threats to water quality in Pennsylvania (PA). However, the widespread co-occurrence of these waste streams offers an opportunity to use their offsetting characteristics to neutralize one another in a process called co-treatment. Passive co-treatment is a novel and transformative approach to engineer common wastes to resources with low cost materials and without ongoing energy inputs. Passive co-treatment of AMD and MWW has been shown to be an efficient treatment method, and it can be an important, sustainable tool to improve and protect water quality and restore ecosystem health throughout PA watersheds. However, more information on the mechanistic details and pollutant removal rates is required in order to enable this technology to be optimized and scaled for varying conditions and types of MWW and AMD. The proposed research will utilize replicated, flow-through column experiments with synthetic MWW and synthetic AMD in order to: 1) Evaluate the role of the key components of the MWW in the co-treatment process and their effect on pollutant removal rates; 2) Investigate the composition and temporal dynamics of the microbial communities involved in the co-treatment process. It is anticipated that increasingly complex synthetic MWW will result in substantially higher pollutant removal rates and increased microbial community diversity and turnover. This investigation will be conducted as undergraduate Research-Learning, which will involve undergraduate students in all aspects of the research process via integration of research into coursework and also in intensive summer research sessions, all of which will be closely overseen by a postdoctoral researcher and three PIs. Recent undergraduate-led research projects on passive co-treatment of AMD and MWW informed the development of this current proposal. Regional nonprofit watershed restoration organizations, watershed associations, conservation districts, and governmental agencies are interested to harness this developing technology because it offers a feasible and sustainable method to simultaneously address the two persistent environmental issues. Representatives of these various regional players have agreed to serve on an External Advisory Panel, which will help ensure the maximum impact of the research by guiding experimental execution and helping disseminate findings.