Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF) 5-Year Nutrient Removal Challenge Program Management

WERF 5-Year Nutrient Removal Challenge Program Management | Alexandria, VA, US
WERF 5-Year Nutrient Removal Challenge Program Management | Alexandria, VA, US
Water Environment Research Foundation
Alexandria, Virginia, USA

Nutrient removal of phosphorus and nitrogen is one of the most pressing issues facing the water and wastewater industry in the 21st century.

Whether large or small, utilities are required to meet nitrogen and phosphorous removal limits that have become increasingly difficult to measure. This means that various techniques – including market-based and technology approaches – need to be explored to help meet nutrient criteria.  

That's why the Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF) launched a five-year program in 2007 to spotlight the challenge of nutrient removal, and selected HDR as program manager with support from the University of Washington, Metcalf & Eddy and CH2M-Hill.

The WERF Nutrient Challenge research program aims to provide measurable results in a combination of areas of immediate utility to the water and wastewater industry. The ultimate goal of the research is to provide information on nitrogen and phosphorous in wastewater – including their characteristics and bioavailability in aquatic environments – to help regulators make informed decisions.

Nutrient removal data will also help utilities select sustainable, cost-effective methods and technologies to meet permit limits. The research will develop and demonstrate new technologies and lead the search for improvements to existing technologies, with a goal of finding ways to reduce capital and O&M costs for nutrient removal by at least 10 percent.

The program effort initially focused on development of a web portal to document and share progress with all interested stakeholders and research on refractory organic nitrogen, phosphorus speciation and analysis and carbon augmentation alternative sources. The website launched in late 2007.

The WERF Nutrient Challenge Website includes executive summaries and other information on current WERF research. The team recently launched the Nutrient Limit of Technology (LOT) Compendium, a comprehensive, online resource that summarizes key regulatory and technological issues. Each topic is presented as a series of questions and answers addressing nutrient removal to very low levels (near limit of technology). The compendium also identifies knowledge gaps. The top priority topics are:

  • tertiary phosphorus removal
  • low phosphorus concentration measurement
  • refractory dissolved organic nitrogen / effluent organic nitrogen
  • alternative external carbon sources for denitrification
  • regulatory issues for low-level nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P)
  • operational challenges for limit of technology nutrient removal
  • biological nutrient removal LOT processes for low N and P concentration