Rural School Wastewater Treatment System



Providing wastewater treatment to a rural school is a true engineering challenge. Schools are only in operation 9 hour per day, 5 days per week, so the inflow rate is highly variable (especially during sporting events). Further, the wastewater composition tends to be higher in urine as compared to the wastewater entering municipal treatment plants. And, when a rural school has a direct discharge permit, meeting the ammonia limits really adds to the challenge. Senior Biosystems Engineering students Payton Smith, James Swart, and Parker Dulin did not shy away from the challenge. As part of the Senior Design Capstone Course, this group developed a wastewater treatment system specifically designed for a rural school application.

Dr. John Buchanan served as their faculty mentor as the team designed and constructed a laboratory-scale sequencing batch reactor that combines suspended and fixed growth biological treatment. As mentioned, a particular difficulty with treatment systems that receive more urine than feces is converting the ammonia to nitrate (nitrification). By combining suspended and fix film biological growth with batch-style operation, the treatment system has more time to provide nitrification. Traditional wastewater treatment plants are flow-through systems. By using real-time ammonia sensors, the batch style system can continue to provide treatment until the water is fully processed.

The team presented their design at the Exhibition of Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement (EURēCA), which is an annual event that showcases research and creative activities by currently enrolled undergraduate students in collaboration with a University of Tennessee faculty mentor. This team was awarded the third place ribbon in the engineering competition. Based on the report the team produced about their project, ASABE invited them to participate in the National Gunlogson Environmental Design Student Competition during the international meeting held this summer in Orlando, Florida. Out of 14 teams, this group was awarded third place for their efforts.
 
John Buchanan
 

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