Students:                 Avery Carlson (Ph.D.) 
Collaborators:         Traverse City Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant
Faculty:                    Nancy Love, Glen T. Daigger 

In 2004 Traverse City, MI implemented the world’s first large-scale membrane bioreactor (MBR) wastewater treatment facility. The process operated as expected until 2011 when accelerated membrane system fouling associated with the appearance of a unique dispersed bacteria, referred to as comma-shaped gram positive. These increased fouling episodes continued periodically and, while the plant has continued to perform, they have negatively impacted plant operation. Since the Fall of 2016 the Daigger research group has been using advanced biological and chemical analysis techniques to identify the causes of these periodic increased fouling incidents. The results have identified the influent wastewater characteristics associated with these events and are assisting plant staff to identify sources. Having been the first, the Traverse City MBR is the longest operating MBR facility in the world for a technology that is being applied increasingly and which now numbers thousands of installations on a global basis. Thus, identifying causes for these fouling incidents can have important global significance.

Figure. Fluorescent microscopy (FISH) of MBR mixed liquor sample using (A) Staphylococcus-specific FISH probe (100x magnification) and (B) universal DAPI stain.