The scientific-research and development work of the department's employees is focused on issues related to environmental engineering technologies, namely, the protection and restoration of water resources, water, and wastewater treatment, sludge, and waste management in accordance with the assumptions of a closed-loop economy, and the issue of urban adaptation to climate change, including the application of blue-green infrastructure in urban areas.
The scientific research and development work being carried out concerns several thematic groups.
The first is the study of the transformation of organic matter, nitrogen, and phosphorus compounds to reduce the eutrophication of surface waters. This research is very important from the point of view of environmental protection but also for the economy (as an additional source of raw materials, the resources of which have been decreasing significantly in recent years). It focuses on determining the optimal configuration of technological processes to establish achievable limits in treated wastewater. This issue is particularly relevant in the Baltic Sea catchment area, where the work of HELCOM teams proposes to tighten the legally required quality parameters for this wastewater. This will require efficient nitrogen removal by conventional nitrification-denitrification processes, as well as by simplified methods: shortcut denitrification or deammonification. In this aspect, the removal of the dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) fraction is particularly important.
Research is also being conducted into the use of various sorbent materials, including waste materials, to remove phosphorus compounds from under-treated wastewater discharged from small and medium-sized treatment plants. Research is also being conducted on the recovery of adsorbed phosphorus for fertilizer purposes to meet the requirements of a circular economy. The research was carried out within the framework of the project "Integrated technology for improved energy balance and reduced greenhouse gas emissions at municipal wastewater treatment plant", under the acronym BARITECH, co-financed from Norwegian funds under the Polish-Norwegian Research Cooperation, implemented by the National Center for Research and Development [197025/37/2013].
Another important aspect is the removal of nitrogen compounds under organic matter deficient conditions in constructed wetlands. The research is carried out on fractional-technical scale models of constructed wetlands beds. The research aims to develop technologies for setting nitrogen compounds in constructed wetlands from wastewater with low concentrations of organic matter. Such processes used in conventional wastewater treatment plants allow a shortening of the so-called nitrogen removal path and, at the same time, reduce electricity demand. Constructed wetlands are, by their nature, low-energy and do not generate secondary sludge through the wastewater treatment process, which, in itself, is very beneficial.
This research takes an interdisciplinary approach, combining technological research and microbiological analysis. Technological studies include the evaluation of the efficiency and kinetics of wastewater treatment processes, with a particular focus on the transformation and removal of nitrogen compounds and the occurrence and transformation of available organic matter. In microbiological studies conducted in parallel, the phylogenetic structure of microbial communities is characterized, as well as its metabolic activity and potential. The latest molecular biology techniques, such as metagenomics and metatranscriptomics, are used for this. This research has been and is being carried out within the framework of many projects, including the Polish-Norwegian BiDiCoWet, Baritech, and in cooperation with Gdansk Water and Sewage Infrastructure Ltd., under the Interreg BSR IWAMA and FanpLESStic projects.
The second group is related to the identification, distribution, and removal technologies for emerging contaminants. In recent years, awareness of the presence of emerging contaminants has been growing significantly. These contaminants include pharmaceuticals, PFASs, PAHs, phthalates, detergents and surfactants, and many other substances, including microplastics, which are most often found in trace amounts. However, studies conducted indicate that their presence is very harmful both to the environment and to humans. Since emerging contaminants are relatively new, it is necessary to identify where they occur. An important aspect is a search for effective technologies to remove these substances, since current technologies were not designed for their removal and are therefore ineffective.
Research related to the monitoring and feasibility of removing PFASs is being conducted as part of the project "Zero-PFAS - Technology development and adaptation to minimize PFAS input to Baltic Sea," funded by the Swedish Institute.
The MINIATURA project entitled "Impact of municipal wastewater treatment processes on the distribution of selected emerging contaminants" investigated the occurrence of selected pharmaceuticals (including ibuprofen, naproxen, paracetamol, flurbiporophen, diclofenac, and diclofenac metabolites: 4OH and 5OH diclofenac) at different stages of wastewater treatment at three treatment plants, located in Gdansk, Gniewino and Swarzewo. The effect of applied wastewater treatment technology on the removal of pharmaceuticals was also investigated.
The CONTRA project (INTERREG BSR Program project # R090 entitled "Baltic Beach Wreck - Conversion of a nuisance to a resource and asset") includes studies on the presence of newly emerging contaminants in the material discarded by the sea (so-called, beach wreck- BW) and in the material after BW processing in the pilot reed system. The analysis includes 10 types of phthalates, 16 types of PAHs, and PFASs.
Microplastics are also among the emerging contaminants. Research on their identification and removal technologies has been initiated in the department, in cooperation with the economic environment (Gdańskie Wody and GIWK), under the Interreg BSR FanpLESStic project. Current research focuses on the quantitative and qualitative analysis of the occurrence and distribution of microplastics in water and wastewater treatment processes in multistage constructed wetlands.
The ever-increasing costs of producing water for consumption, as well as the deepening water deficit in Poland, have forced the search for increasingly efficient technologies for treating water for consumption while minimizing the costs of these processes. Of vital importance in this situation are the processes taking place in the system of treatment and distribution of tap water, particularly in the processes of water purification, so that they constitute a safe source of water for consumers. This is particularly important considering the numerous literature reports on the detection of emerging pollutants, including microplastics, in waters intended for drinking water supply to the public. These are chemical compounds that are not commonly monitored but can pose a significant threat to human health. According to the NORMAN network, at least 700 substances, divided into 20 classes, have been identified in the European aquatic environment. Research conducted at the Department of Technology in Environmental Engineering will focus on the application of modern technologies to remove specific pollutants (such as arsenic) from groundwater. Following the circular economy assumptions, research will also be conducted to determine the potential risks posed by the resulting by-products and will include methods for their disposal.
The third group of studies focuses on the recovery of raw materials (including water) and energy in a closed-loop economy. Issues related to the closed-loop economy are identified by the EU as one of its priorities. Due to dwindling resources and the huge amounts of waste generated, it is necessary to change the approach from linear (raw material - product - waste) to circular (raw material - product - other raw material for reuse).
Research is being conducted to increase biogas production as a renewable energy source. They are concerned with the optimization of technological conditions for the methane fermentation process with regard to the use of industrial and agricultural waste products, as well as the wet fraction of municipal waste in the co-digestion process in municipal and agricultural biogas plants. As part of the DEZMETAN project (contract no. POIR.04.01.02-00-0022/17), work has been carried out on the development and implementation of a complete technological line to condition substrates from agri-food processing, using hydrodynamic and low-temperature disintegration (solution filed with the Polish Patent Office) in an innovative hybrid system. Increasing the bioavailability of methane co-digestion substrates will increase biogas production, improve the rheological properties of the digestate, improve the efficiency of sludge dewatering, and reduce the amount of digestate that requires further management.
Using disintegration technology, it is planned to improve the energy balance and profitability of the biogas plant. Substrate disintegration also affects the quality of the sludge liquid produced during the dewatering process, which influences the approach related to its subsequent treatment. The issue of treating digestate leachate and recovering nitrogen and phosphorus from it in the form of struvite completes the knowledge necessary for the user of the proposed technology. This comprehensive approach makes it possible to properly assess the impact of the use of co-substrates on the operation of the entire facility, such as an agricultural biogas plant or a municipal wastewater treatment plant. Complementing this research is the work carried out under the Norwegian Financial Mechanism (2020-2023) "Integrated system for simultaneous recovery of energy, organics and nutrients and generation of valuable products from municipal wastewater" (NOR/POLNOR/SIREN/0069/2019-00). This research is planned to establish optimal conditions for the recovery of nutrients from leachate from the dewatering of digestate in the form of usable fertilizer products: calcium phosphate and ammonium bicarbonate.
Research on the treatment of highly concentrated wastewater in an EGSB reactor is planned, including the production of bio-hytane (application under the PRELUDIUM competition). The research will determine the conditions that affect the formation of anaerobic granular sludge. The main part of the research is related to carrying out the anaerobic treatment process with the production of a new biofuel - bio-hytane. The carbon footprint of the EGSB reactor is significantly smaller compared to that of aerobically treated wastewater. The amount of energy required to operate an EGSB reactor is significantly less compared to an aerobic reactor. In addition, the anaerobic reactor is a producer of renewable energy - biogas, which contributes to the positive carbon footprint of the EGSB system.
As part of the implementation doctorate, in cooperation with the Polish Gas Company Ltd., research is being carried out to determine a method of treating biogas produced in municipal and agricultural biogas plants with the quality parameters of natural gas, having the least possible adverse impact on gas infrastructure components.
The main idea of the CONTRA project is to convert waste (what is beach wreck material - BW) into a product. For this purpose, 6 different technologies have been tested. The Gdansk University of Technology team is converting the waste into a product using a natural method with reed beds. Preliminary research indicates that BW after processing in reed systems can be used as a fertilizer or a structuring material. These activities fit very well with the circular economy.
Studies are also being conducted for specific municipal facilities, such as the Gniewino wastewater treatment plant. This research analysed the possibility of disposing of sewage sludge with reed systems for reuse as a fertilizer material.
The topics of resource recovery and the promotion of the circular economy idea are also related to the project "Sztum Circular Economy - a response to modern climate challenges". The main objective of the project is to create a new integrated program to support the circular economy in communication and information activities in the local, regional, and international spheres, as a response to environmental, social, and economic problems. The project consists of blocks that are diverse in scope and content. The activities envisaged in each of the thematic blocks will contribute to the creation of sustainable conditions for circular economy activities in the territory of the Municipality of Sztum, as well as the participation and cooperation of the general public with local actors of the economic and environmental sphere in the Baltic Sea region.
The project envisages investment activities and soft activities, which will be carried out in parallel during the project implementation period and will complement each other. Investment activities include the construction of a Municipal Selective Waste Collection Point in Sztumskie Pole and a repair, storage, and exhibition hall in Sztum. The hall will also house a socio-circular "Second Chance" material station, which will serve not only as a repair point but also as a place to generate a new social movement related to strengthening the idea of the circular economy.
Numerous soft activities are aimed at spreading the idea of the circular economy in the Municipality of Sztum, but also promoting regional and international cooperation. These are also broadly understood promotion and environmental education (including publications, newsletters, seminars, conferences, workshops for children and young people, creation of e-learning tools, hackathon, SferaLab) and innovative ways to engage residents in sustainable waste management activities.
In Europe, water consumption for municipal purposes is one of the highest in the world, and water resources are subject to progressive degradation processes. It is therefore becoming necessary to look for opportunities to recover water from treated wastewater, grey wastewater, and rainwater, as well as alternative water sources, including rainwater. In the EU, there are currently no legal regulations for water reuse. However, growing awareness of the need to establish such criteria has resulted in the promulgation of Regulation (EU) 2020/741 of the European Parliament and of the Council of May 25, 2020, on minimum requirements for water reuse.
The document defines four classes of reclaimed water quality and permitted agricultural and irrigation use. They apply to different types of crops: food crops, non-food crops, industrial crops, energy and seed crops, urban green spaces, and different irrigation methods (such as so-called drip irrigation). Assessment of the quality of water for reuse involves both chemical and microbiological criteria. Research conducted and continuing at Department will include both the evaluation of rainwater and wastewater quality (treated and grey), as well as the possibility of their treatment using biological and physical-chemical methods, such as coagulation, precipitation, conventional filtration, and membrane filtration, sorption, but also natural methods.
In cooperation with Ecol Unikon, the "Home Retention Technologies" project is also seeking solutions to develop effective, yet as simple as possible, methods for treating grey wastewater (wastewater from bathing, laundry, and dishwashing) to enable its reuse directly in households. Pilot-demonstration systems have been carried out to treat rainwater to a quality that allows it to be used for household and hygienic purposes (mainly washing, bathing, and laundry), and to treat wastewater (mainly using a domestic hydrophytic treatment plant) to a level that allows it to be safely used for flushing toilets once watering the garden.
Research is also being conducted on the disinfection of treated wastewater mainly using membrane methods, UV radiation, and ozonation.
The fourth thematic group of ongoing research focuses on Nature Based Solution (NBS) technologies and, in particular, works on blue-green infrastructure application in the urban areas adaptation to climate change as solutions that follow the requirements of circular economy. Due to climate change and the increasing occurrence of extreme weather events such as droughts, flash floods and heavy rains, cities must adapt to these conditions. The best solutions seem to be NBS as rain gardens, green roofs, green walls, bioswales, bioretention ponds etc. These solutions provide many ecosystem services such as biodiversity enhancement, reduce urban heat island effect, improve air quality, create areas for recreation and try to restore a natural urban water cycle and deal with urban circularity challenges.
Within the cooperation with the municipality units e.g., the Gdańskie Wody company, the City of Wejherowo, and within the Interreg BSR WATER project, analyses have been carried out on the quality of rainwater from various runoff surfaces, e.g. roofs, streets and parking lots, as well as evaluations of applied solutions in the form of rain gardens both in terms of quantity and quality, including the potential for pretreatment of collected rainwater. Elements such as increase of biodiversity and mitigation of the urban heat island (research using a unmanned aerial vehicle with thermal imaging camera) have also been evaluated.
As part of the project with the acronym NICE - INNOVATIVE AND ENHANCED NATURE-BASED SOLUTIONS FOR SUSTAINABLE URBAN WATER CYCLE, funded under the HORIZON 2020 program in 2021-2025, a review of possible technological solutions will be carried out and guidelines for NBS design will be prepared for various applications for urban water treatment (so-called Urban Waters). A so-called URBAN REAL LAB will be established on the Gdansk Tech campus as part of this project in the form of a rain garden for stormwater containing specific pollutants, e.g., petroleum substances, heavy metals, or microplastics. In this facility, a series of studies will be carried out to identify the unit processes of pollutant removal, their phase and spatial distribution in the various elements of the system, the efficiency of removal, and the selection of the most optimal solutions. The research will cover both basic parameters and emerging contaminants.
The NOAH project ("Protecting Baltic Sea from untreated wastewater spills during flood events in urban area" funded by the INTERREG BSR program # R093) is also being carried out within the framework of this research topic. The effective management of rainwater in urban areas is currently one of the biggest environmental problems facing the cities that border the Baltic Sea. NOAH's goal is to develop a concept for comprehensive planning and implementation of smart drainage systems in real-world urban environments. A holistic planning approach will combine stormwater management with urban planning. As a result, proposals will be developed for intelligent system solutions, the implementation of which will enable an increase in the resilience to the effects of climate change of existing drainage systems in Baltic cities and will link stormwater quality to hydraulic models (extreme weather layer).
Within the MINIATURA project titled "Analysis of pollutants removal and the impact of the rain gardens on the quality of storm water" (DEC-2022/06/X/ST8/00504), a study of the spatial distribution of pollutants in the various components of the rain garden will be carried out. The quality of rainwater will be analysed in terms of basic parameters and, in addition, caffeine (as an indicator of the presence of domestic wastewater) and chloride (as an indicator of the presence of municipal wastewater (e.g., from streets) and industrial wastewater). Suspended solids concentration and total suspended solid particle size will also be evaluated using granulometric analysis. A screening analysis of the possible appearance of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) is planned.
It is also planned to implement the WATERMAN project, which is currently funded by seed money and has been granted flagship status under the PA NUTRI priority for the BSR INTERREG financial mechanism. In this project, pilot studies will be carried out towards the development of technology for the pretreatment and reuse (circular economy element) of wash water/used pool water.
The fifth group includes studies on the quality of the aquatic environment. These studies carried out within the framework of NCN projects, included the assessment of the quality of the bottom sediments of surface water bodies. As a result of the accumulation of pollutants in bottom sediments, they are an excellent source of information not only about the current state of the aquatic environment but also about changes in quality over time. Analysis of sediment cores makes it possible to assess not only changes in the degree of environmental pollution, but also to partially identify the causes, e.g., in conjunction with hydrological data on heavy rainfall or flooding, or atmospheric air quality monitoring data. Assessment of the degree of contamination of bottom sediments by heavy metals or persistent organic pollutants is made based on geochemical and ecotoxicological criteria. Simultaneous implementation of these methods, combined with careful statistical processing, allows for a proper interpretation of the data obtained. Studies of the quality of bottom sediments were carried out both in the context of drinking water quality (studies of the Straszynski Reservoir, where the only surface water intake for Gdansk is located) and in conjunction with the assessment of the quality of urban water bodies. The latter, in connection with the growing role of "small retention" in preventing the effects of increasingly frequent torrential rains (floods and urban flooding), is becoming an important source of information on environmental quality.
Due to the ever-increasing water deficit in Poland, all undesirable factors, whether of a natural nature (weather extremes) or technical nature (e.g., the failure of the "Czajka" WWTP in 2019 and 2020), pose a potential threat to our region. The state of the water environment is significantly affected by the introduction of a significant number of microorganisms, including pathogenic ones, posing a potential threat to both drinking water consumers and bathing water users. In this context, an ecologically important effect of traditional disinfectants is the often-observed selection of resistant bacterial strains. An important aspect of the work to be carried out will be to minimize the risk of transferring resistant strains, as well as factors that increase their resistance (including heavy metals and pharmaceuticals, among others), to natural waters and thus ensure the safety of users. The research will use advanced molecular biology techniques to determine the phylogenetic structure of microbial assemblages and their metabolic activity and potential.
Specific to the work of the department's teams is the study of particularly sensitive areas, such as polar regions, national parks, and coastal regions. These exceptionally valuable natural areas are particularly vulnerable to the impact of anthropogenic acitivity and progressive climate change. Increasing understanding and protection is the only way to preserve them for future generations in the least altered state possible. Studies of polar regions in both the Arctic and Antarctic include the analysis of the impact of chemical parameters modifying the environment on the diversity of bacteriocenosis in the river catchment area and the presence and diversity of microorganisms in the river-lake system, as well as the impact of anthropogenic pollution on extremely sensitive ecosystems.
For many years, the Department of Environmental Engineering Technology has also been carrying out research work in the exceptionally valuable coastal areas of the Gulf of Gdansk and the Bay of Puck and the open Baltic Sea, in the area from Dębki to Władysławowo. Increasingly intensive tourist traffic has a significant impact on this area, and inadequate sanitary quality of water and sand is of increasing concern to those holidaying there. The research is intended to help adapt the existing water and wastewater infrastructure to serve the growing number of tourists and to identify potential risks associated with so-called new pollutants such as pharmaceuticals and cosmetics containing UV filters.
The research work has been carried out in cooperation with many domestic and foreign partners, including the Institute of Oceanology PAS in Sopot, the Institute of Geophysics PAS and the Institute of Biochemistry and Biophysics PAS in Warsaw, the Directorate of the Seaside Landscape Park in Władysławowo, and the Norwegian University Consortium UNIS in Svalbard (Norway).
Head of Department
Krzysztof Czerwionka PhD. DSc. Eng., Prof. at GUT
phone: +48 58 347 16 82
Deputy Head of Department
Prof. Magdalena Gajewska PhD. DSc. Eng.
phone: +48 58 347 15 09
Secretariat of Departament
telefon: +48 58 347 24 21