Superfund Research Program
High-throughput Biocatalyst Manufacturing for Environmental Biotechnology
Project Leader: Fatemeh Shirazi
Grant Number: R44ES024670
Funding Period: Phase II: August 2020 - August 2021
A variety of hazardous compounds continue to pose serious and widespread risks to public health and safety in the United States. Organic compounds, in particular, such as chlorinated solvents, hydrocarbons, disinfection byproducts, pesticides, polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and other xenobiotic (not naturally occurring) organic chemicals comprise a major category of water contaminants. These high-priority pollutants are often regulated by state and federal agencies due to their proven links to cancer and various diseases, including liver or kidney disease, immune dysfunction, nervous system disorders, and hormonal or reproductive defects. However, existing chemical, physical and biological technologies to remove these compounds suffer from significant limitations that lead to low treatment efficiency and/or increases costs for Superfund site managers, municipalities and water supplies. This project is based on a prior Phase II project involving the successful development of an enhanced cometabolism-based biological technology that significantly overcomes the limitations of conventional treatment systems. This new technology has been demonstrated to degrades the hazardous organic compounds into harmless byproducts instead of producing a concentrated secondary waste stream. Moreover, this new technology offers significant reductions in energy and maintenance costs compared with chemical or UV oxidation, and offers both an in-situ and ex-situ treatment options across a range of operating conditions to simultaneously and cost-effectively remove hazardous organic compounds from water. In this project, the manufacturing processes underlying this technology are significantly improved in terms of manufacturing throughput, waste reduction, quality control and environmental footprint. Specifically, the existing production process for the technology is redesigned and re-engineered using semi-automated, high-throughput process units to optimize material usage, reduce labor costs, ensure liquid and chemical recycling and ultimately lead to a significant reduction in manufacturing costs, thereby enhancing the widespread implementation and availability of the treatment technology to a greater number of sites, especially disadvantaged and rural communities which often lack the resources to address local water contaminations. The outcome of this project is a significant advance in the versatile manufacturing of biocatalyst composites at the heart of the treatment of hundreds of contaminants. The successful result of this project holds significant promise in addressing harmful contaminants that are not effectively treatable using existing technologies, and thereby recovering substantial stakeholder value for public and private stewardship of water resources.