Over a five year span, the Metropolitan Milwaukee Sewerage District is funding $1.2 million in water research for the Opus College of Engineering’s Water Quality Center. MMSD partnered in 2018 with Marquette University on the Water Coordinated Activities on Research for the Environment (WaterCARE) project.
Every year, MMSD and the university release a request for proposals from researchers at Marquette, where they can apply for funding by submitting formal proposals, which are then reviewed by a panel of MMSD and Marquette experts.
Daniel Zitomer, an environmental engineering professor and director of the Water Quality Center, said it is a competitive process.
“Marquette researchers are working with MMSD to address problems related to stormwater, wastewater and water resources in a more reliable and economical way,” Zitomer said.
Despite working with MMSD on projects in the past, Jeanne Hossenlopp, university vice president for research and innovation, said the WaterCARE project is specific to Marquette and differs from these programs.
“WaterCARE is distinguished from other programs in that MMSD has collaborated with the Water Quality Center to create a Marquette-specific annual competition that is focused on improving water resource reclamation and strategies to protect the environment,” Hossenlopp said.
In addition, students have an opportunity to work with researchers from MMSD.
Zitomer said the research teams consist of a principal investigator and graduate students, either working to earn their master’s degree or doctorate. He added that undergraduate research assistants can also work on some projects.
Matt Magruder, the environmental research manager in the MMSD planning, research and sustainability division, said he hopes the program will foster more understanding.
“We are sharing pain points (and) opportunities for deeper understanding and innovation through the WaterCARE RFP and project mentorship activities,” Magruder said.
Zitomer said that a potential project for funding is a rapid stormwater treatment. He said that when large storm events occur, the storage capacity and treatment system of the water become overwhelmed with rain, resulting in the release of untreated water into Lake Michigan, rivers and streams. He said their rapid stormwater treatment would treat this excess flow.
“There are currently no rapid treatment systems that exist to our knowledge in the world,” Zitomer said.
Zitomer also said they are working on other projects in water treatment research, such as building a pilot system, as well as using rapid solids removal techniques. These techniques are followed by chemical oxidation in order to remove water pollutants. Participants in the project have conducted two years of research on sewerage systems.
Zitomer said that Marquette and MMSD have been working together on research projects for at least 30 years.
“It’s my understanding that they’re very happy with the results. We’ve been able to do different projects for them that have resulted in cost savings and more efficiency and more resilient infrastructure,” Zitomer said.
“Marquette is (an) outstanding academic institution located just minutes away from the district’s headquarter and central lab facilities,” Magruder said. “I hope to continue to strengthen the collaboration between the district and Marquette University, give students exposure to the District as a potential employer or professional collaborator and uncover new opportunities to recover resources and reduce our environmental footprint.”
Zitomer said that through the WaterCARE project, he hopes to protect the environment and help MMSD with managing water resources.