March 2014, Vol. 26, No.3


Working together to advance innovation

LIFT program encourages cooperation and shared research findings

Carita Parks

In 2012, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago and the Metro Wastewater Reclamation District (MWRD) in Denver joined the newly formed Leaders Innovation Forum for Technology (LIFT) program — a joint Water Environment Federation (Alexandria, Va.) and Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF; Alexandria, Va.) initiative designed to help move innovation into practice in the wastewater industry. LIFT helps utilities share in conducting demonstrations of new technologies. The program affords participating utilities a platform to directly communicate, collaborate, pool resources, and discuss experiences in research and initiatives of common interest. The first technology area of interest identified by LIFT members was sidestream deammonification, and both Chicago and Denver individually had begun to explore this technology.

At Chicago’s John E. Egan Water Reclamation Plant, the high ammonia nitrogen load in its centrate cannot be returned to the mainstream without compromising compliance with permitted ammonia limits. As a result, the centrate stream is conveyed via interceptor sewer to another facility. Nuisance odor issues have plagued residents along this sewer line. Chicago began to investigate sidestream nitrogen removal technologies as a means to attenuate return ammonia loads so that centrate management could remain at the Egan facility without affecting effluent ammonia concentrations. 

Concurrently, Denver, which had implemented sidestream treatment strategies at its Robert W. Hite Treatment Facility several years prior, was beginning to investigate the potential to integrate deammonification into sidestream treatment facilities. Denver was interested in investigating the potential benefits toward compliance on tighter effluent ammonia and nitrogen limits, as well as improved performance reliability of enhanced biological phosphorus removal in the main process. 

Choosing technologies 
Chicago pursued the DEMON® technology and scheduled pilot testing of the process on the centrate stream beginning in September 2012. The utility chose this technology because of its maturity and energy efficiency; Chicago also intended to investigate ANITA™ Mox soon after.
Denver, on the other hand, pursued the ANITA™ Mox technology and also scheduled pilot testing on its centrate stream starting in September 2012. The DEMON®technology also is on Denver MWRD’s list of technologies for evaluation. Both technologies are extremely effective at developing the ecological niche of organisms required for deammonification, but they differ considerably in attributes that must be considered when determining whether a technology selection fits well with a facility and its operating culture. 

Collaborating and sharing 
In 2012, several utilities discussed their interest in deammonifciation or actual demonstration projects through the LIFT program. Both Denver and Chicago highlighted their respective pilot studies and realized their common interest. The connection through LIFT helped the utilities align efforts and leverage benefits from each other’s studies. Denver and Chicago initiated recurring personal communication and information-sharing among their respective studies and participated in one another’s studies. Through status meetings, phone calls, and e-mail, the two utilities were able to discuss pilot study direction and design criteria, operational guidelines and problems, process control, infrastructure needs, system robustness, and overall performance. 

In December 2012, to enhance technology evaluation leading toward application, Chicago co-hosted a LIFT deammonification workshop where utilities convened to learn about vendors of different technology approaches and to exchange information and experiences. Chicago and Denver both shared midpoint updates of their studies.

Both Chicago and Denver continued to share progress updates into 2013 until both studies were completed. Both utilities now can use each other’s information to support the basis of proceeding with deammonification and technology selection. From the studies, both utilities were able to compare operating requirements, reliability of performance, volumetric efficiency, and control strategies of the two technologies.

From the collaborative effort on technology evaluation, Chicago is moving forward with the design and implementation of a full-scale ANITA™ Mox process at its Egan facility, while Denver has benefited from the efficiency of technology evaluation with this collaborative approach.

Through shared participation in the studies, both utilities were able to reduce research costs and stretch resources while accelerating the rate of understanding, building of confidence, and uptake of new technologies. This joint research approach allowed both utilities to realize the benefits of research and new technology on an accelerated basis.

Chicago and Denver both received WERF’s 2013 Award for Excellence in Innovation for their work on this project, which demonstrated how LIFT can be successful.

Carita Parks is the communications manager at the Water Environment Research Foundation (Alexandria, Va.).