Application of Molecular Methods to Determine Abundance, Population Structure, and Functions of Polyphosphate Accumulating Organisms and the Impact

Project: Research project

Project Details


Nationwide, innovations in wastewater treatment are becoming more prevalent as the focus shifts to energy efficient biological nutrient removal coupled to resource recovery1. Removing nutrients during wastewater treatment benefits receiving waterways, as an overabundance of reactive nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) can result in low dissolved oxygen, fish kills, depletion of flora and fauna, and dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico. The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) has adopted a nutrient control process and resource recovery approach with respect to P and N removal. The plan includes recovery of P in the form of a slow release mineral fertilizer material to the extent that this nutrient becomes available in recycle streams following anaerobic digestion of sludge. An Environmental Monitoring and Research (M&R) Division Department team is studying the enrichment of naturally occurring microorganisms, termed Polyphosphate Accumulating Organisms (PAOs), for cost-effective and resource efficient biological P removal at the Stickney, O’Brien, Kirie, Egan, Hanover Park and Calumet Water Reclamation Plants (WRPs). The transition to Enhanced Biological Phosphorus Removal (EBPR) is now underway at these WRPs, the goal of which is to reduce the level of P in the MWRD’s treated water that is released to the Chicago Area Waterways in order to meet permit limits. Monitoring the health, diversity, and abundance of the key microorganisms responsible for P removal in these processes, as well as competing organisms that can lead deterioration in process performance, has been shown to be valuable tool for controlling EBPR processes.
Effective start/end date11/14/1812/31/19


  • Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (3102282)


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