Olga Bernadet, PhD in the Products and Processes for Biotechnology-group of ENTEG and affilaited to Wetsus, won one of the PhD Grants 2022 of UG Sustainable Society. Each year this society awards 8 grants of 2000 euros to enable PhD candidates to broaden their horizon and give their research output an extra push. PhD projects/students projects are awarded that are explicit contributions and/or solutions towards societal and sustainability challenges.
Wastewater reclamation is a promising solution for water shortage. The treated wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) effluent can be reused for potable and non-potable purposes, e.g., for irrigation, toilet flushing, water sports, etc, but it is not easily implemented. The WWTPs we have in place are not designed to remove organic micropollutants, such as medicines and antibiotics, so the treated effluent likely contains these chemical and if it is used recklessly for whatever purposes, we may harm the aquatic environment and induce the spread of antibiotics resistance.
For my PhD project, I am working with Biological Oxygen-dosed Activated Carbon (BODAC) filters to remove medicines and antibiotics from treated WWTP effluent. I am trying to understand the removal mechanisms of these compounds and to look for possibilities to improve their removal. However, it is good to realize that the treated effluent contains thousands of other compounds, which are impossible to be measured individually, while my research only focusses on 22 compounds. Therefore, I am planning to carry out some bioassays using the PhD Grant in an external laboratory to assess the overall toxicity level of the water.
With the bioassays, some model microorganisms will be exposed to the treated WWTP effluent before and after BODAC filtration. The water toxicity level will be assessed based on how the microorganisms react to the exposure. The results from these bioassays will be useful in two ways. Firstly, it will give more comprehensive view on BODAC filters performance at removing not only the 22 compounds, but also water toxicity in general. Secondly, it can be used as a supporting information when selecting the best technology for improving WWTP effluent quality prior to reclamation purposes.
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