Young Professionals Bring Fresh Ideas to the Water Industry
(DENVER) – Shoeleh Shams, research assistant for the University of Waterloo’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Chair in Water Treatment, earned first place honors for her work on nitrate removal technology at the seventh annual Fresh Ideas Poster Session during the American Water Works Association’s recent Annual Conference and Exposition (ACE10) in Chicago.
Tara Clancy of the University of Michigan and Michael Ryan of Drexel University, both environmental engineering graduate students, won second and third place, respectively.
This year’s poster session, jointly developed by AWWA’s Manufacturers/Associates Council and the AWWA Young Professionals Committee, featured 13 section winners from across North America. The young professionals convened for the national competition at ACE10 June 20-24, where section volunteers judged their entries.
Research topics ranged from ways to monitor, model and remove microbes and contaminants to treatment plant design.
Shams’ project addressed nitrate contamination of groundwater, a serious worldwide issue. “Nitrate exposure can lead to several health problems in adults and a potentially fatal disorder in infants,” said Shams. However, the feasibility of nitrate removal is limited by cost and residuals handling, she said.
Shams researched both ion exchange and reverse osmosis for their effectiveness at reducing nitrate concentrations in groundwater samples. Her project “provides decision support assistance for the selection of an appropriate nitrate removal technology under a variety of conditions,” she said.
Similarly, Clancy’s research focused on using a biologically active carbon reactor for the simultaneous removal of nitrate and arsenic, another significant groundwater contaminant. Clancy says the carbon reactor is important because it can remove multiple contaminants and prevents the re-release of those contaminants after landfill disposal.
With many water providers facing limited water supplies and growing demand, feasible contaminant removal technologies are important because they could open up previously unusable sources.
In addition to inorganic contaminants like nitrate and arsenic, bacteria introduced through feces, particularly human feces, can also pose significant health risks. However, “most of the methodologies currently used to quantify fecal pollution do not tell you the source. Is it human or animal?” Ryan explained.
By using molecular methods, Ryan can determine the difference, offering more accurate assessment of human health risks posed by fecal pollution.
Young professionals showcased fresh ideas like those of Shams, Clancy and Ryan before the nearly 12,000 water professionals attending ACE10. “These interactions are important for the future of this industry and provide a unique environment for the exchange of ideas,” Clancy said.