Research

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Student in lab coat using scientific equipment

WEST Center is a resource for local, state, and national communities with the ability to respond in near real-time to emerging contaminant and threats.  The Center brings together multiple disciplines from across the University of Arizona campus to work with both public and private sectors, to answer urgent questions related to water and wastewater treatment and monitoring, municipal waste reuse, and the use of low energy technologies.

WEST areas of expertise:

  • Pandemic monitoring and mitigation
  • New technology evaluation
  • Molecular and cultural detection technologies for human pathogenic bacteria, viruses, and protozoa
  • Trace organic analysis at the parts per trillion level
  • Analytical detection methods for emerging chemical contaminants
  • Advanced water treatment systems to achieve potable water quality
  • On-line real-time water quality sensors
  • Distribution system water quality issues (biofilms, corrosion, disinfection byproducts)
  • Membrane technologies and concentrate management
  • Evaluation of soil health and reduced consumptive use for irrigation
  • Energy efficient treatment technologies 

Because of the unique laboratory space and direct access to wastewater, technology research, development and testing takes place at the bench and intermediate field scale. Work at the WEST Center is conducted by University of Arizona faculty, staff, undergraduate and graduate students, postdocs, and visiting scientists.

Featured Research Areas

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Close-up image of microplastics

Incidence, Transport, and Impact of Microplastics

WEST has access to a state-of-the-art Agilent 8700 Laser Direct InfraRed Spectoscropy instrument to aid in studies of microplastic pollution extent, fate, transport and influence on human and environmental health.

Researchers at WEST have also developed innovative new approaches to analyze soil health and have extensive experience in the transport of nanoparticle sized polystyrene mocrospheres through soil.

Technologies to remove microplastics from potable water or effluents can additionally be evaluated at WEST Center.


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ANITAMOX cultivated rings

Anammox for Side Stream Treatment of Effluent

Anammox for Side Stream Treatment of Effluent aims to investigate the efficiency and cost-savings of removing NH4 from effluent using the anammox process.

PIs: Jim Field (UA), Reyes Sierra-Alvarez (UA), Jeff Prevatt (Pima County), Guangbin Li (UA), and Ian Pepper (UA)

Status: On-going at WEST Center


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Illustrated graphic of PFCs

Perfluorinated Compounds (PFCS or PFAS)

Regarded by the EPA as an emerging contaminant, PFCs are fully fluorinated long chain organic compounds and part of a family of anthropogenic chemicals used for decades to make products resistant to heat, oil stains, grease and water.

PFCS levels in drinking water are regulated by the EPA and, while PFC exposure from land application of biosolids is minimal, some municipalities have put a moratorium on land applications due to concerns for underlying groundwater.

WEST Center is conducting in-depth research on PFCS, including a study to document whether or not Class B biosolids are a significant source of PFCS in the environment.


Recent WEST Center Research

2019

Nearly 30 projects were underway at the WEST Center in 2019.  To review the types of projects - including their investigative purpose, main contacts at WEST Center, and contact information - see the document above.