Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Civil and Environmental Engineering

Degree Program

Civil Engineering, PhD

Committee Chair

Rockaway, Thomas

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Sun, Zhihui

Committee Member

Sun, Zhihui

Committee Member

Bhaskar, Nageshwar

Committee Member

Gerber, Erin

Author's Keywords

optimization; wastewater treatment plant; groundwater; aquifer


For most environmental systems, specifically wastewater treatment plants and aquifers, a significant number of performance data variables are attained on a time series basis. Due to the interconnectedness of the variables, it is often difficult to assess over-arching trends and quantify temporal operational performance. The objective of this research study was to provide an effective means for comprehensive temporal evaluation of environmental systems. The proposed methodology used several multivariate data analyses and statistical techniques to present an assessment framework for the water quality monitoring programs as well as optimization of treatment plants and aquifer systems. The developed procedure considered the combination of statistical and data analysis algorithms including correlation techniques, factor analysis and principal component analysis, and multivariate stepwise regression analysis. Those methodologies were used to develop a series of independent indexes to quantify the composition of wastewater and groundwater. Also, by developing a stepwise data analysis approach, a baseline was introduced to discover the key operational parameters which significantly affect the performance of environmental systems. Moreover, a comprehensive approach was introduced to develop numerical models for forecasting key operational and quality parameters which can be used for future simulation and scenario analysis practices. The developed methodology and frameworks were successfully applied to four case studies which include three wastewater treatment plants and an aquifer system. In the first case study, the aforementioned approach was applied to the Floyds Fork water quality treatment center in Louisville, KY. The objective of this case study was to establish simple and reliable predictive models to correlate target variables with specific measured parameters. The study presented a multivariate statistical and data analyses of the wastewater physicochemical parameters to provide a baseline for temporal assessment of the treatment plant. Fifteen quality and quantity parameters were analyzed using data recorded from 2010 to 2016. To determine the overall quality condition of raw and treated wastewater, a Wastewater Quality Index (WWQI) was developed. To identify treatment process performance, the interdependencies between the variables were determined by using Principal Component Analysis (PCA). The five extracted components adequately represented the organic, nutrient, oxygen demanding, and ion activity loadings of influent and effluent streams. The study also utilized the model to predict quality parameters such as Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD), Total Phosphorus (TP), and WWQI. High accuracies ranging from 71% to 97% were achieved for fitting the models with the training dataset and relative prediction percentage errors less than 9% were achieved for the testing dataset. The presented techniques and procedures in this case study provide an assessment framework for the wastewater treatment monitoring programs. The second case study focused on assessing methane production of a novel combined system for treatment of high strength organic wastewater. The studied pilot plant comprised Rotating Biological Contactor (RBC) process under anaerobic condition, in conjunction with Moving Bed Biofilm Reactor (MBBR) as the combining aerobic process. Various operational parameters were tested to maximize the Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) removal performance and methane gas production from treating high strength synthetic wastewater. The identified optimal parameters included hydraulic retention time, organic loading rate, and disk rotational speed; equal to 5 days, 7 rpm, and 2 kg COD/m3/d, respectively. Under these conditions, the combined system achieved high removal efficiency (98% from influent COD of 10,000 mg/L) with additional benefit of methane production (116.60 L/d from a 46-liter AnRBC reactor). The obtained results from conducting this case study confirmed the effectiveness of integrated hybrid system in achieving both high removal efficiency and methane production. Thus, this system was recommended for treating high strength organic wastewater. The third case study focused on assessing the feasibility of using a contact stabilization process for secondary treatment of refinery wastewater through a step by step analysis. the studied pilot plant comprised contact-stabilization activated sludge process in conjunction with clarification reactor. Various operational parameters were tested to minimize excessive sludge production and maximize system removal performance from treating petroleum refinery wastewater. The mixed liquor dissolved oxygen (DO) and the rate of activated return sludge (RS) were selected as key operational parameters. The results indicated that the system had an optimum performance under applied aeration of 3.7 mg oxygen per liter of mixed liquor and 46% return sludge. This operational combination resulted in COD removal efficiency of 78% with daily biomass production of 1.42 kg/day. Considering the results from this case study, the contact stabilization activated sludge process was suggested as an effective alternative for secondary treatment of wastewater from petroleum refineries. The last case study combined probabilistic and deterministic approaches for assessing aquifer’s water quality. The probabilistic approach used multivariate statistical analysis to classify the groundwater’s physiochemical characteristics. Building upon the obtained results, the deterministic approach used hydrochemistry analyses for a more comprehensive assessment of groundwater suitability for different applications. For this purpose, a large geologic basin, under arid weather conditions, was evaluated. The ultimate objective was to identify: 1) groundwater classification scheme, 2) processes governing the groundwater chemistry, 3) hydrochemical characteristics of groundwater, and 4) suitability of the groundwater for drinking and agricultural purposes. Considering the results from multivariate statistical analysis, chloride salts dissolution was identified within the aquifer. Further application of the deterministic approach revealed degradation of groundwater quality throughout the basin, possibly due to the saltwater intrusion. By developing the water quality index and a multi-hazard risk assessment methodology, the suitability of groundwater for human consumption and irrigation purposes were assessed. The combined consideration of deterministic and probabilistic approaches provided an effective means for comprehensive evaluation of groundwater quality across different aquifers or within one. The presented procedures and methodologies in this research study provide environmental analysts and governmental decision makers with a comprehensive tool to evaluate current and future quality conditions within any given wastewater treatment plants and/or aquifer systems.