A vital piece of the Department of Defense’s (DoD) ability to meet its mission is the effective treatment of wastewater to protect public health and the environment as well as maximize operational flexibility. Advances in wastewater treatment at fixed installations and at forward operating bases (FOBs) can significantly contribute to meeting DoD’s sustainability goals, reduce operational costs, and improve overall mission performance. A deployable and easy‐to‐use on-site, wastewater treatment system that minimizes energy and water usage will improve the security of military personnel, improve the base environment, and reduce associated costs by minimizing the need for fresh water and fuel from off‐base sources.

In 2012, SERDP funded a group of projects to develop innovative systems for on site, sustainable wastewater treatment at DoD FOBs. As these projects have moved towards completion, some have migrated to ESTCP to demonstrate these technologies on DoD installations.

Under project ER-2218, Dr. Kathryn Guy of the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC), Construction Engineering Research Laboratory developed a sustainable wastewater treatment system that converts wastewater contaminants into harvestable products for energy production using a combination of three sustainable technologies in concert. Upon successful development, this treatment technology matured to ESTCP under project ER-201728 to demonstrate and validate the distributed low-energy wastewater treatment (D-LEWT) system that enables water reuse and converts black water contaminants into harvestable fuels for energy generation.

Dr. Wei Liao of Michigan State University led SERDP project ER-2215 that studied the integration of solar, biological, and membrane technologies into wastewater treatment to create an energy-neutral, small-scale wastewater treatment system to reduce the mass of wastewater and simultaneously generate potable water for FOBs.

Under ER-2216, Dr. Bruce Logan of Pennsylvania State University investigated methods to treat graywater and black water produced at FOBs using a microbial fuel cell (MFC) in an energy neutral or energy positive process to avoid the need to consume fuel for wastewater treatment. To further demonstrate and validate this technology, Dr. Don Cropek of U.S. Army ERDC under ESTCP project ER-201635 is being funded to study a distributed treatment system for domestic wastewater that integrates the MFC and biofilter technologies (ER-201434).

Dr. Menachem Elimelech of Yale University under SERDP project ER-2217 developed an osmotic membrane bioreactor (OsMBR), a novel wastewater treatment concept that integrated forward osmosis separation with biological wastewater treatment to transform wastewater into high-purity water with relatively low energy consumption.

Dr. Amy Childress of the University of Southern California under SERDP project ER-2237 examined optimizing the operating parameters for developing n osmotic membrane bioreactor (OMBR) system consisting of a bioreactor, forward osmosis process, and membrane distillation process, which is a highly efficient wastewater treatment and water reuse system with a small footprint.

Under ER-2238, Dr. Hua Wang of GE Global Research studied the development of an innovative, easily deployable membrane bioreactor and ultra-low energy reverse osmosis system for onsite wastewater treatment that produces high-quality water for potable and non-potable reuse.

Dr. César Torres of Arizona State University under SERDP project ER-2239 studied the treatment of blackwater using a microbial fuel cell (MFC) with concomitant hydrogen peroxide production and developed a MFC that focuses on hydrolyzing and stabilizing the solids contained in blackwater while providing enough hydrogen peroxide to treat the residual chemical oxygen demand in the effluent stream.

Summaries of these research projects are available on the SERDP and ESTCP website and all reports originating from these efforts will be available from the project web pages.