CHICAGO, Il. — Geosyntec Consultants is a winner of the 2010 Excellence in Environmental Engineering Award given by the American Academy of Environmental Engineers. The award will be formally presented at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, on April 28, 2010.
The winning project, " Microbial Risk Assessment for Recreational Use of the Chicago Area Waterways," was a research study — the first microbiological characterization of the CAWS for fecal indicators and pathogens — conducted in order to provide scientific information needed to help understand the public health uncertainties in the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS). CAWS is a man-made channel serving the Chicago area for the drainage of urban stormwater and the transport of secondary treated sewage from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago's (MWRDGC) North Side, Stickney, and Calumet water reclamation plants. MWRDGC serves an area of 883 square miles with a population of approximately 10.35 million.
"The microbial risk assessment (MRA) research project was awarded to Geosyntec because of their superior technical and organizational approach to the research plan," said client Louis Kollias, Director of Monitoring and Research, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRDGC), in a testimonial letter. The project was successfully completed with the following subcontractors: Patterson Environmental Consultants; Cecil Lue-Hing & Associates; Dr. Charles Gerba of the University of Arizona; Hoosier Microbiological Laboratory, Inc.; and Clancy Environmental Consultants, Inc.
"The findings of the MRA will assist MWRDGC and other decision makers in determining the need for effluent disinfection and conducting a cost-benefit analysis, considering the low rates of illness," said Geosyntec's Chriso Petropoulou, PhD, PE, BCEE, who served as project manager. Other key staff were: Keith Tolson, PhD; Mary DeFlaun, PhD; Ruth Custance; Cathy Villaroman; Steve Roy,LEED AP; Brandon Steets, PE; and Aklilu A. Tesfamichael, PhD.
"The successful completion of the study and training provided by Geosyntec demonstrated how cooperation between consultants, academia, and private laboratories can address issues vital for all parties"_," said Louis Kollias. "This subject study is outstanding scientific research study that led to a comprehensive understanding of the wastewater microbes, methods, and health risks which, ultimately, resulted in the development of a health risk-based model for the protection of secondary contact recreation in freshwater systems."
In 2009, Chriso, Keith, and Mary co-authored the Water Science and Technology article "Dry and Wet Weather Microbial Characterization of the Chicago Area Waterway," which discussed the scientific research and results. Other co-authors included Charles Gerba of the University of Arizona as well as Geeta Rijal, Richard Gore, Tony Glymph, Thomas Granato, Catherine O'Connor, Louis Kollias, and Richard Lanyon of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.
The primary objective of the CAWS study was to conduct a comparative microbial risk assessment of the human health impact (risks for gastrointestinal illness and skin/eye/ear infections) to a representative recreational user of the CAWS, and evaluate the extent that various disinfection alternatives might have on the overall health risks reduction. The study revealed that the concentrations of pathogens in the CAWS, representing the weather conditions experienced in a recreational year, were relatively low. Also, the presence of pathogens in the CAWS upstream and downstream of the WRPs were due to secondary loading of the waterway under wet weather conditions from combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and other discharges.
The final report, "Dry and Wet Weather Risk Assessment of Human Health Impacts of Disinfection vs. No Disinfection in the Chicago Area Waterways System," is posted on the MWRDGC's website.