We propose to make wastewater treatment systems more sustainable by developing a more effective way of biologically removing phosphorous. Through our research we will better understand the mechanisms of enhanced biological phosphorus removal (EBPR) and we will develop a new process that reliably and stably accounts for near complete removal of phosphorous from wastewater. An alternative to current EBPR theory, we propose the study of a new theory that more comprehensively integrates the complex microbial metabolisms occurring within a real wastewater environment. We propose that the removal of phosphorus is governed by the stress response, or stringent response, of microbial consortia subjected to unbalanced growth conditions within wastewater treatment. A biological process designed to optimize the microbial stringent response can meet strict discharge limits (0.01 to 0.02 mg P L-) set forth by the US EPA. As EBPR is currently the most environmentally benign method of phosphorous removal, making this process more reliable and stable will diminish dependence on chemical processes and will make a significant contribution towards the overall sustainability of wastewater treatment processes.

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