There’s value in the water we pour down the drain.
And it’s engineering professor Cigdem Eskicioglu’s job to figure out how to maximize it while minimizing pollution and environmental impact.
Eskicioglu, who works out of UBC Okanagan, on Thursday was named senior industrial research chair in advanced resource recovery from waste water.
Her new role is in partnership with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and Metro Vancouver.
Her job is officially developing the next generation of waste-water sludge treatment technologies that recover energy and resources from water that goes down our kitchen, bathroom and laundry drains.
What that means is finding ways to make waste-water treatment cheaper, safer, cleaner and more sustainable.
It also means use of Eskicioglu’s innovative bioreactor technologies to clean waste water and create more viable byproducts that can be used in the production of bioenergy.
Bioreactor technology can also minimize toxins in treated waste water, such as pharmaceuticals, detergents, personal care products and pesticides, so the water can be used to irrigate crops.
“(This) will have a significant impact on adopting new technologies by municipalities across the country and will potentially create a strong ecosystem of innovation in waste-water treatment,” said Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council vice-president Marc Fortin.
Metro Vancouver started working with Eskicioglu in 2013 when it needed more efficient ways to remove excess ammonia from treated waste water.
Results of the collaboration led to a provisional patent on an advanced bioreactor to create renewable natural gas from treated waste water.
“We are thrilled this industrial research chair expands into thermal-chemical reactors that promise even greater resource recovery opportunities,” said Metro Vancouver program manager Paul Kodota.
Laboratory testing at UBC Okanagan and pilot programs will help develop the waste-water sludge conversion processes.
Findings will first be used by Metro Vancouver, which is helping fund the project, as the region invests billions of dollars over the next decade to upgrade waste-water treatment facilities.
Eskicioglu’s research and techniques will also provide lessons for municipalities across Canada and around the world who want to make similar improvements.