Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs 519 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

April 11, 2006

Engineer to Lead Studies for Safe Drinking Water

A University of Guelph environmental engineer is heading a million-dollar, cross-country research project on emerging technology intended to protect water resources and ensure safe drinking water for people in Canada and abroad.

The collaborative study to be led by Prof. Hongde Zhou of the School of Engineering will involve five universities and industry partners. The Canadian Water Network recently approved a two-year $400,000 grant for the group. Along with funding from the Ontario Centres of Excellence — the Centre for Earth and Environmental Technologies and from private sources, the researchers will receive nearly $1.25 million.

The funding will enable the researchers to study and improve membrane technology for removing contaminants from waste water. Zhou says membrane bioreactors are still a largely untapped form of waste-water treatment that will be needed to prevent new kinds of organic and microbial contaminants from poisoning water supplies.

Add in rapidly expanding populations whose increased consumption has prompted calls for water reuse and increasingly strict regulatory requirements, and there’s an emerging market for more advanced water-treatment systems, he said.

Water-borne pathogens can pose significant health threats in developed countries, such as the tainted water that killed seven people and sickened thousands in Walkerton, Ont. In developing nations, poor-quality drinking water continues to cause many infectious diseases, the single largest source of human mortality, according to the World Health Organization.

Zhou and engineering professor Khosrow Farahbakhsh will team up with researchers at the University of British Columbia, the University of Manitoba, Ryerson University and École Polytechnique de Montréal, as well as industry and municipal partners.

Membrane bioreactors use arrays of polymer membranes to filter contaminants from waste water. Only about 5,000 systems have been installed worldwide, a relative handful among the conventional activated sludge treatment systems operating every day in municipalities around the world.

Rather than replace those conventional aeration systems, membrane bioreactors are combined with existing treatment processes to ensure removal of particulate and dissolved contaminants, from resistant pathogens to new kinds of endocrine disrupter chemicals.

Previous research, including a project with the City of Guelph, shows promise to reduce the aeration costs for membrane waste-water treatment systems by 30 to 40 per cent, said Zhou. “That’s millions in savings, given the volumes of waste water to be treated by municipalities.” He and his students have worked on a pilot study with the City of Guelph and Zhou now plans to scale up the study at the city’s waste-water treatment plant. “The city wants to see if membrane bioreactors can increase treatment capacity and provide better treatment.”

The project will make U of G a national leader in studying and applying membrane technology in waste-water treatment and reuse, he said.

Prof. Hongde Zhou
School of Engineering
(519) 824-4120, Ext. 56990/

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, (519) 824- 4120, Ext. 53338, or Rachelle Cooper, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982.

Email this entry to:

Message (optional):

Powered by FeedBlitz