–The following story was written by Taia Goguen-Garner
Ever wondered what processes your water goes through before it ends up in your glass?
Ashley Piche, a Master of Applied Science student in Environmental Engineering at Carleton University has compared the performance difference between biological filtration and conventional filtration of our drinking water.
Through her research, Piche has found that biological filtration provides us with the opportunity to maintain sustainability in the production of drinking water without the use of harsh chemicals like chlorine.
“Biological filtration caught my attention because of its ability to meet drinking water standards using beneficial microbes in the system and decrease chemical needs in water treatment plants,” explains Piche. “Biological filtration helps build sustainability into the production of drinking water by reducing the need for chemicals used at plants while also removing higher levels of organics than conventional filtration. Reducing organics helps to reduce possible disinfection by-products and can reduce taste and odour issues in water supplies – which clearly no one wants!”
Piche’s research holds a lot of importance for the general public, as it is a necessity to have clean sustainable water. “The removal of dissolved organic carbon is done completely by biodegradation by the microorganisms in the filter – a natural process,” says Piche. “This is what reduces the formation of dangerous by-products from the disinfection step, which follows filtration. It also produces biologically stable water, meaning there is less of a chance of bacterial growth in the distributions systems throughout cities, which is currently a problems in a lot of places.”
Piche is currently working on Dr. Onita Basu’s research team looking at water and wastewater dynamics. Dr. Basu is an associate professor in Environmental Engineering and associate chair of Graduate Studies in Civil and Environmental Engineering.
Says Piche: “Dr. Basu has helped me in many ways throughout this process. While I was collecting data at the Britannia Water Treatment Plant, she would often come with me and always offered to come if I needed it. She always provides helpful feedback on my work and helped me to present my data in the best ways possible. She also helped to improve my presentation skills by holding regular research group meetings where we take turns presenting our work to her and our peers.”
Piche emphasises the fact that Basu’s research team and her program in general holds a strong sense of community. “Everyone from the staff, faculty and fellow students are always willing to help if you need it… I enjoy that I can get insights and ideas from other professors, lab techs and students. In courses, in the lab, or while writing there are always multiple people I know that I can ask for help when trying to learn a new concept, a new lab technique or if I need any work to be proofread.”
Piche chose Carleton for her graduate studies after hearing nothing but positive feedback about the school and programs offered at Carleton. “I also had some friends that graduated from the environmental program, as well as other types of engineering at Carleton who spoke highly of their time here. It was a pretty easy decision after considering that.”
As for the near future, Piche will be presenting a paper at the Water Quality and Technology Conference this coming November in Toronto that is put on by the American Water Work Association. Piche plans to submit and defend her thesis by December as well as submit her articles to scientific journals. She hopes to get a job working as an environmental engineer in training.
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