Wayne State and Great Lakes Water Authority to Create Workforce and Laboratory Center

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The research and support team examining the pilot plant settling basin. The ozone columns are visible to the upper left. Left to right, Michael Dunne, Carol Miller, Dienye Tolofari, Yongli Wager. // Photo by John Norton/GLWA
The research and support team examining the pilot plant settling basin. The ozone columns are visible to the upper left. Left to right, Michael Dunne, Carol Miller, Dienye Tolofari, Yongli Wager. // Photo by John Norton/GLWA

Wayne State University in Detroit has received a $584,114 contract to develop a collaborative research project with the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA), located in downtown Detroit, to create a workforce and laboratory center of the future.

The three-year project aims to develop the existing Waterworks Park Pilot Plant facility to perform applied research, testing and evaluation, and workforce development for new and emerging technologies.

“A significant component of this research effort is the development of methods for scaling results from pilot-scale research through to full scale implementation,” says John Norton, director of energy, research, and innovation for the Great Lakes Water Authority. “There are huge challenges in applying basic research to real world situations. Wayne State University is the ideal partner for us to understand how to scale laboratory-sized science to a facility our size.”

The project will be based out of the pilot facility located in the Waterworks Park water treatment plant complex on Jefferson Avenue. Although the water treatment plant is located at the historical site of the Detroit-based treatment plant, it was completely rebuilt in the late 1990s where engineers designed and included a complete and functional small-scale model of the full-scale treatment system.

“The pilot plant is essentially a 12,000 to 1 scale model of the full treatment system,” says Norton. “Anything we need to do at the full-scale facility we can first operate within the pilot plant to evaluate how the system responds. As you can imagine, this is very useful for training our operators and chemists because they can experiment and learn how the system responds under different scenarios before trying to do it with the full-scale plant.”

Carol J. Miller, professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of Healthy Urban Waters at Wayne State will lead the project, along with co-lead Yongli Wager, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Wayne State.

They and the full support team will provide important knowledge that will help GLWA proactively respond to different water treatment scenarios and emerging water quality concerns. The educational and workforce development programs that also comprise this project will help to address the critical shortage of technicians and engineers for water utilities nationwide.

“Our work with GLWA will initiate with a strategic plan to optimize benefits to the GLWA user community, treatment plant operators, the utility industry, and the water ecosystem,” says Miller. “In addition, we are working to maximize economic benefits to the community, as well as include workforce training and job opportunities.

“On the research side, there are several focus areas including verification of scale-up processes, in-plant learning tools and process optimization considering treatment variables including coagulant and disinfectant materials. This training is critical for evaluating water treatment processes and developing scenario-based proactive responses to different water treatment and emerging water quality concerns.”

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