Sewage effluent is a major global driver of freshwater pollution, but conventional treatment technologies to mitigate sewage pollution are energy intensive, expensive and frequently provide sub-optimal pollutant removal performance. In this regard, integrated constructed wetlands (ICWs) have emerged as a potential alternative, cost-effective, natural treatment for sewage effluent, but major questions remain about their seasonal effectiveness and long-term ability to capture, retain and cycle nutrients with sufficient efficiency to reliably replace conventional treatment technologies. Furthermore, there is growing environmental concern regarding the inability of conventional treatment process to remove endocrine disrupting plasticizers and laundry microplastic fibres, and research is required to assess whether ICWs have increased potential to mitigate these plastic pollutants.
Integrating hydrological, biogeochemical and analytical sciences, the student will investigate the potential of ICWs to provide an environmentally and economically sustainable alternative to conventional wastewater treatment technologies for the reduction of nutrients, plasticizers and microplastic fibres in sewage effluent. This field and laboratory intensive project will see the student lead on a comprehensive 18-month field sampling campaign, collecting water, sediment and plant materials from across numerous operational ICWs and their neighbouring river channels at hourly-to-monthly resolution. In the laboratory, the student will be trained in the operation of a wide range of state of the art analytical equipment, enabling them to deliver a novel, comprehensive and quantitative evidence base on the effectiveness of ICWs at treating sewage effluent. The student will gain extensive and highly valuable data analysis experience as well as opportunities to engage with a wide range of water, environmental and industry stakeholders. The professional training gained will provide rewarding career opportunities in conservation, regulation, research and industry organisations.
This PhD project is in a competition for a Faculty of Science funded studentship. Funding is available to UK applicants and comprises home tuition fees and an annual stipend of £15,285 for 3 years. EU & Overseas applicants may apply but they are required to fund the difference between home and overseas tuition fees (which for 2020-21 are detailed on the University’s fees pages at https://portal.uea.ac.uk/planningoffice/tuition-fees . Please note tuition fees are subject to an annual increase).