Great Lakes Water Authority

Jun 13, 2019
Wendy Barott

The Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) is a regional water and sewer authority that services nearly 40% of the water customers and nearly 30% of the sewer customers in the State of Michigan. GLWA is an important example of regional collaboration in Southeast Michigan, with City of Detroit, the counties of Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb, and the State of Michigan officially uniting to ensure that both city and suburban water and sewer customers have a powerful voice in the direction of one of the largest water and wastewater utilities in the United States. With the stand-up of the new authority, GLWA assumed operational, infrastructure improvements, environmental compliance, and budget-setting responsibilities for the regional water and sewage treatment plants, major water transmission mains and sewage interceptors, and related facilities. These facilities are leased from the City of Detroit for an allocation of $50 million per year to fund capital improvements for the City of Detroit retail system and/or Detroit’s share of capital improvements to the regional system. 

GLWA has assigned a high priority to addressing the challenge of moving the current wastewater treatment facility – a high-speed pure oxygen secondary facility with landfilling, incineration, and biosolids drying for solids handling – to a Utility of the Future, where energy use is net zero and resources are recovered while reducing operating costs. To support this move, GLWA has established its first Research and Innovation Group.


What new technologies have you been evaluating or implementing?

GLWA’s Water Resource Recovery Facility (WRRF) needs to decrease the energy it uses, recover energy, and generate energy as a big stride toward an energy neutral future. As the largest wastewater treatment plant in the country without an existing anaerobic digestion complex, GLWA is uniquely positioned to comprehensively evaluate traditional and emerging technologies for converting biosolids to useful fuels and other byproducts. The evaluation will consider how to maximize the benefit, determine potential negative impacts on primary and secondary operations, and investigate the recovery of other materials as a result of the conversion process, the energy balance, space required, and capital, operation, and maintenance costs. 

GWLA Facility

As such, GLWA is testing biosolids produced at the WRRF using anaerobic digestion, hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL), and pyrolysis to determine the energy and byproduct yields. Part of the consideration will be the utilization of the new Biosolids Drying Facility, and the production of a more balanced product from a nutrient perspective for land application; thus the partitioning of the phosphorus and technologies available to recover it in a useful form will also be considered.

GLWA is also investigating the dynamic control of the collection system, with an eye toward optimizing use of existing wet weather control facilities during wet weather events. Another optimization project which is underway is the control of the high purity oxygen activated sludge system to biologically enhance phosphorus removal and match oxygen use to bioreactor needs at all operating scenarios.


What technologies are you interested in investigating?

On the horizon, GLWA in interested in increasing phosphorus and ammonia removal during mainstream treatment, anaerobic treatment of the mainstream and membrane systems for both water and wastewater treatment.


What are your facility drivers and needs?

GLWA has developed a Brand House which will lead the organization during all strategic and business planning activities. One of the three pillars of the Brand House is “High Quality Through Innovation,” which sets an expectation for GLWA to lead innovation and processes for treatment, act as a technology incubator, and foster collaborations to develop leading edge technology and research. GLWA is also driven by our brand to be smart, efficient, and focused.


How has LIFT helped, or how would you like LIFT to help your facility?

LIFT has been valuable to GLWA by allowing us to shortcut literature and technology research, and begin to focus immediately on the relevant issues. Being able to access expertise at other utilities and universities will help us design research that is unique and moves forward the process or technology without reinventing the wheel – thus leveraging our resources and helping other utilities leverage theirs. 


If there were one technology you would pilot or collaborate on tomorrow, what would it be?

The full-scale piloting of the use and control of peracetic acid to disinfect the effluent from a combined sewer overflow basin.


Wendy Barrott
Manager Research and Innovation