Primary Investigator: Chan Lan Chun
Co-Investigators: Christopher Filstrup; Susma Bhattarai Gautam (Postdoctoral Scholar)
Industry Partners: Western Lake Superior Sanitary District; Metabolon Institute
Award Type: Seed Grant – Postdoctoral Research Scholar

ProblemNutrient pollution from urban and agricultural sources impact the health of water systems throughout Minnesota. Effective nutrient removal from wastewater is a critical component of strategies to remediate water before it is released into waterways and natural ecosystems. Conventional nitrogen removal technologies are often inefficient, require expensive, energy-intensive aeration processes, and are limited in ‘electron donor potential’ by the external carbon source.

Solution: Chun’s Team recently identified and enriched microbes capable of removing nitrogen from Minnesota’s wild rice wetlands that use methane as the electron donor, in place of external organic carbon, to drive denitrification. This project will further explore these microbes to develop novel anaerobic treatment technologies that remove nitrogen and methane concurrently, without requiring the expensive carbon source. Application of these microbes within engineered treatment systems will test system stability and efficacy as a new denitrification technology.

Impact: Incorporation into engineered treatment systems that process wastewater, landfill leachate, and agricultural waste, if stable and effective, would offer valuable new bioremediation technology to the state and beyond. Optimization of this anaerobic process would remove the cost of aeration and reduce the amount of methane and nitrogen released into the environment through wastewater streams.

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