Students in the water treatment technology program at the Environmental Resources Training Center (ERTC) of the School of Engineering at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville recently installed an advanced wastewater treatment process at their training center. The group includes two Highland students, Jim Hoffmann and Austen Zimmer.
Under the guidance of their instructors Rick Lallish and Kurt Neuhaus, the students converted a 35-year-old obsolete, treatment system into an advanced moving bed biofilm reactor, also referred to as an MBBR.
“By utilizing the existing tank and piping, it was economically feasible to introduce the ERTC students to a new treatment process,” explained Rick Lallish, program director for Water Reclamation. “The students were as excited as I was to work on this unique training and research opportunity.”
An MBBR uses hundreds of one-inch diameter bio-discs (that look like a plastic version of Honeycomb cereal) to be the medium for the growth of a biological film layer.
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“The discs act like little apartment buildings where bacteria and other micro-organisms can live.” said ERTC director Paul Shetley. “Professionals in the water industry refer to the micro-organisms that help clean the wastewater as bugs.”
According to Shetley, once the bugs move into their little homes, they begin eating the organic matter and cleaning up the water. The bio-discs are circulated throughout the water column using air bubbles pumped into the bottom of the tank. As the air bubbles rise, they provide oxygen for the bugs and, at the same time, the bubbles cause the water and the bio-discs to circulate.
The students who worked on the installation of the MBBR are in the one-year Water Quality Control Operations Program at ERTC. The training center provides vocational-technical educational opportunities for people interested in a career in the field of water treatment technology.
Their hands-on training consists of the operation of the training-scale treatment plant housed at the center. ERTC provides the students with the opportunity to operate five separate water treatment processes while attending the one-year program. There are three drinking water plants: a surface water, a groundwater and a membrane filter plant along with two wastewater treatment systems: an activated sludge plant and the MBBR. The Center also houses two water quality teaching laboratories.
The training center offers a one-year certificate of completion in the Water Quality Control Operations Program. In conjunction with Lewis and Clark Community College, students may also earn an associate’s in applied science. Graduates from ERTC are eligible to take the state exams to become certified water treatment operators in Illinois and Missouri.
“Our graduates have the opportunity to hold five professional certifications in water treatment,” said Shetley. “There is no other training center in the nation that provides that opportunity.”