Microbes for better sewage treatment
The “first great triumph of microbial-community engineering” promises a big leap forward in wastewater treatment. A special news feature in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports on the development of methods that use “cultured bacterial communities” to not only treat sewage but to create useful products. Fulton Schools Professor Bruce Rittmann, an environmental engineer who has been doing research in this area for more the three decades, has helped pioneer techniques that can now tailor microbial communities to perform specific functions. With this and related advances, Rittmann and fellow researchers sparked a fundamental rethink of the classic activated-sludge approach to treating wastewater. Their work has led to a “game-changing approach” in ways communities can deal with sewage and at the same time recover valuable resources in the process.