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Siwei Chen wins the NYWEA Student Paper Competition


Dr. K.

Siwei Chen, a Civil Engineering Ph.D. candidate supervised by Dr. Xinwei Mao, was awarded first place in the Student Paper Competition of 95th New York Water Environment Association (NYWEA) Annual Meeting. He presented his research entitled “Optimal Nitrogen Removal from Onsite Wastewater Treatment Using a Novel Biofiltration System - Filter Material Optimization” in the University forum.

NYWEA is a non-profit, educational organization founded in 1929 by professionals in the field of water quality. For nearly a century, NYWEA has been at the forefront of promoting sustainable and innovative solutions to protect our water resources and lead the way toward existing state and national clean water programs. Today the Association has over 2,500 members representing diverse backgrounds and specialties, united in their efforts to safeguard and enhance our valuable water resources.

Siwei’s research focuses on developing a cost-effective biofiltration system with compact size and low maintenance demand for efficient nitrogen removal from onsite wastewater. Onsite wastewater is one of the major sources of excessive nitrogen to groundwater and coastal regions, causing eutrophication and harmful algal bloom. Conventional treatment systems designed for nitrogen removal from onsite wastewater are costly due to their large footprint to accommodate the limited treatment capacity. Additionally, clogging problem also increases the maintenance cost for these systems. In Siwei’s research, a novel biofiltration system with unique recirculation and continuous loading design was developed to effectively remove nitrogen from onsite wastewater at an affordable price. This patented biofiltration system is trademarked as FlexTreat Biofilter™. Compared with conventional treatment systems, FlexTreat Biofilter™ shows two to three times higher treatment capacity and can achieve over 90% reduction of total nitrogen in the final effluent. Meanwhile, the optimum filtration material (the combination of marble chip and gravel) determined in a bench-scale column experiment overcomes the clogging challenge of FlexTreat Biofilter™ and significantly reduces its maintenance demand. The prominent nitrogen removal performance, compact design and negligible maintenance demand of FlexTreat Biofilter™ makes it a more economically feasible option to mitigate the harmful effects of nitrogen from residential onsite wastewater on marine and lacustrine ecosystems.

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