Northeastern University Team Places Second in International Wastewater Design Competition

Winners of the Water Environment Competition at WEFTEC 2021, in Chicago, IL

The Water Environment Federation (WEF) hosted the international student design competition in Chicago this past October during WEFTEC21, which is the largest annual water quality event in the world.

A team of students comprising of seniors from the Northeastern University Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering placed second in the Wastewater Design Competition, which saw the participation of 23 schools and four countries.

From left to right: Jeffery Ling, Emily Eastman, Taylor Labbe, and Aidan Travers.

The winning Northeastern team project outline the preliminary design and modeling of a Water Resource Recovery Facility (WRRF) that the team (knows as Gaia Water Engineering Group) completed for an anonymous Vermont-based creamery.

The project goals were to design a sustainable process that recovers energy, nutrients, and a high-quality effluent for reuse within the Dairy’s facility. The design team completed a comprehensive technology review and proposed three potential WRRF processes. Further analysis and comparison identified the following technologies for the final process flow: upflow anaerobic sludge blanket (UASB) reactors, 4-Stage Bardenpho reactors, a sludge centrifuge for biosolids dewatering, and an ultrafiltration/reverse-osmosis system (UF/RO). The proposed process recovers energy by converting organic matter in the wastewater into biogas through mesophilic UASB reactors coupled with heat and power cogeneration. A 4- stage Bardenpho reactor train combined with sludge thickening and dewatering effectively removes nutrients from the liquids stream and recovers nutrients by producing biosolids for use as a fertilizer. Final polishing is achieved through ferric chloride addition and UF/RO, producing a high-quality effluent that meets standards for reuse within the dairy production facility for equipment washing. This preliminary design includes equipment sizing and operation, chemical requirements, and cost estimates.

The project was developed during the spring 2021 capstone course under the supervision of Prof. Onnis-Hayden of the Northeastern University Civil and Environmental Engineering department in partnership with the industry mentor Anna Mehrotra from CDM-Smith. Capstone is the culmination of a student’s time at Northeastern, a course in which they blend the concepts and skills developed during their program into a comprehensive final project.

Related Departments:Civil & Environmental Engineering