Graduate Student Researching More Affordable Wastewater Treatment Options

Samantha McLaughlin

Rebecca Mattson, a first-year Master's student in Environmental Engineering, is expecting to graduate in 2018 ... but she's already thinking about the future. As a Minneapolis native, Mattson completed her undergraduate degree in Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering from the University of Minnesota. As a graduate student at Iowa, Mattson is researchinthe need for more affordable, alternative wastewater treatment options for small towns. "Due to economies of scale, many ammonia treatment processes utilized in urban areas are not affordable for small communities," she said.

Mattson studies a specific nutrient removal system called a submerged attached-growth bioreactor (SAGB). A SAGB is a large aerated lagoon filled with pea-gravel. Wastewater treatment plants that treat their waste in a lagoon system use SAGBs as the final treatment step before wastewater is discharged into a receiving body, usually a river or creek. The SAGB converts ammonia, a contaminant that kills fish and has strict effluent limits, to nitrates. "This research will better enable regulators, engineers and scientists to reduce the size, improve the effectiveness, and lower the cost to build these systems in small Iowa towns,” Mattson explained

Mattson hopes that her research and studies here will lead to a career in environmental engineering and wastewater treatment. She is passionate about helping people in Iowa and across the world. Mattson and her adviser, Dr. Craig Just, are working to set up a student chapter of Engineers Without Borders at the University of Iowa. “He and I are traveling to Nicaragua over winter break to find a community to work with on a community-driven development project,” said Mattson. To learn more about Rebecca and her work in Environmental Engineering, click here.