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TreatRec Report Summary

Project ID: 642904
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.3.1.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - TreatRec (Interdisciplinary concepts for municipal wastewater treatment and resource recovery. Tackling future challenges)

Reporting period: 2015-01-01 to 2016-12-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The TreatRec project offers a highly innovative training programme in the technology, chemistry, process engineering, modeling and decision support systems, as well as business and entrepreneurial skills, provided by leading experts from academia and industry. Network-wide training is complemented by research training through an individual scientifically ambitious research project generating at the end young professionals that:
• Have an understanding of science, policy drivers, technological solutions and the social science aspects associated with the monitoring and treatment of wastewater and recovery of resources;
• Have experience of working on and delivering a research project that is aimed to meet the real needs of industrial sector;
• Have experience of working in both academic and non-academic sector;
• Have formal training in business skills (including project management, IPR, commercial exploitation of research results) delivered by practitioners who are working in leading global companies and SMEs.
Specific scientific objectives of the TreatRec are the following:
• To evaluate technological feasibility and cost-effectiveness of several advanced treatments focusing on nutrient recovery and removal of emerging contaminants
• To improve scientific understanding of the fate and behavior of understudied emerging microcontaminants during wastewater treatment
• To identify the role of each treatment unit within a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) related to the microcontaminants removal, nitrogen and phosphorous recovery or removal with energy consumption, reliability and performance levels
• To investigate the stress conditions that trigger periods of poor wastewater treatment performance in the context of both present day and future scenarios
• To identify the resilience and robustness of the evaluated technologies against changes of environmental conditions
• To encapsulate process knowledge acquired in the project in the form of a decision support system that will allow decision makers to make more qualified decisions

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The work done and the main results achieved in the reporting period 1 are summarized below:
- An industrial-scale pilot plant combining a biological activated carbon filter with an ultrafiltration membrane (BioMac) has been designed, built, operated and continuously monitored. The performances of this technology have been investigated focusing specific attention to emerging micropollutants (MPs) removal, in particular Pharmaceutical Active Compounds (PhACs).
- A statistical fingerprinting approach based on liquid chromatography - high resolution mass spectrometry (LC-HRMS) data treatment of wastewater dissolved organic matter (DOM) has been developed and tested.
- The workflow is successfully applied to a reverse osmosis (RO) and a biological (BT) treatment to show the merits of our approach on an example of real wastewater systems. System-specific removal preferences in RO and BT and significant changes in the chemical profile of DOM after the treatment have been observed.
- A lab-scale one-stage partial nitritation-anammox run on digested sludge liquor unit was successfully assembled and operated. The main attention was paid to the evaluation of the possibility to implement phosphorus recovery after autotrophic nitrogen removal.
- P-recovery after the PNA reactor has been successfully tested. The requirements for the recovery of P, N and K after PNA in terms of pH, temperature and Mg2+ dosing were assessed in batch and continuous experiments.
- A novel alternative with bioinduced P recovery in the PNA has been investigated
- A review of resilience at wastewater treatment works has been performed, including a thorough critical review of relevant studies published on the topic, to describe the current state and future challenges for resilience applied to wastewater treatment.
- Four key elements have been identified in a resilience assessment: stressors, properties, metrics and measures. Overall, resilience research in the wastewater sector is lacking consensus and coordination in key issues. The industry needs to implement resilience as soon as possible in order to face all the present and future challenges, but there is still a lot of work to be done for resilience assessment, implementation and management to become a reality.
- An integrated model capable to estimate concentrations of pharmaceuticals (PhACs) in rivers is developed focusing on evaluating the influence of model uncertainty on the selection of end-of-pipe measures implemented to reduce such concentrations.
- The integrated model can predict accurately (R2 = 0.95) diclofenac concentrations in WWTPs and in the river. End of pipe measures capable to remove diclofenac over 90% (i.e. ozone or active carbon) results in apparent reductions of diclofenac concentrations irrespective of the scenario of uncertainty evaluated. The rest of measures implemented in WWTP’s (i.e. upgrades in the secondary treatment) result in apparent reductions of diclofenac concentrations which depends on the scenario of uncertainty evaluated

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

Recent developments in the area of wastewater treatment and resource recovery technologies provide a fantastic opportunity to develop improved and more efficient treatment of wastewaters, to reduce discharges of microcontaminants in the aquatic environment and ultimately secure a healthier environment for humans. The application of technologies, developed and studied within TreatRec, could help meet the ever increasing regulatory demands that are being placed on water agencies around the world. For these technologies and methods to be effectively adopted, the business and regulatory policy sectors will require professionals who not only have knowledge of processes and technologies, but also of monitoring, environmental contamination, modeling and social science. Important progress in research is frequently associated with interdisciplinary initiatives and insights. This is particularly true in addressing problems of wastewater treatment, which are always interdisciplinary in nature and the information and competence needed to progress research in the field often resides in different sectors. With their multi-sectoral insight, the TreatRec fellows will be able to readily access that information and competence, and hence better progress research. In addition, their training in employing an entrepreneurial approach to research, supported by their training in transferable skills, will equip them to progress research in a directed and efficient fashion.
So far the project contributed to fill in several technological gaps and knowledge needs such as (i) evaluation of state-of-the art technologies for wastewater treatment upgrade for successful removal of emerging microcontaminants, (ii) getting better insight into transformations of organic matter occurring during wastewater treatment, (iii) identification of the best combination of anaerobic ammonium oxidation plus struvite precipitation to increase the phosphate recovery and to minimise ammonium recycles to the water line, (iv) provision of means to risk assess urban wastewater treatments response to current and future stressors in combination and (v) Decision support system (DSS) development within the wastewater treatment field by involving from the very beginning industrial partners which will define the requirements of such systems and which will provide experimental examples for validation.

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