Re-thinking water quality, policy and health — An elemental approach-University Lecture Series - Carnegie Mellon University

Monday, October 8, 2012

Re-thinking water quality, policy and health — An elemental approach

The Distinguished Lecture Series in Environmental Science, Technology, and Policy

Monday, October 8, 2012     |     4:30 pm, Porter Hall #100

Kartik Chandran, Associate Professor, Columbia University

The current paradigm for wastewater treatment is based on a net 'oxidation' of its main elemental constituents, carbon and nitrogen. Such a model, while beneficial to environmental health is energy and cost intensive and in some cases prohibitive. The high energy, cost and resource requirements of this oxidative model also renders technologies thus developed, rather inaccessible to the majority of the world’s population from a sanitation and human health perspective. Further, such models are rather redundant, when considered in conjunction with the carbon, food, energy and water cycles. In this presentation, concrete examples of new models for carbon and nitrogen cycling (or lack thereof) are presented as alternate vehicles for energy and resource neutral or positive sanitation. Through the use of such models, improved water quality is but a bonus and is complemented with commodities and energy, which can be monetized. It is also possible to adopt such models to address issues such as localized migration into cities by facilitating de-centralized and distributed resource use, recovery and infrastructure.

Kartik Chandran is an Environmental Engineer and currently Associate Professor of Earth and Environmental Engineering at Columbia University, where he leads the Columbia University Biomolecular Environmental Science program and the Wastewater Treatment and Climate Change program. Under his stewardship, the research directions of biological wastewater treatment and biological nitrogen removal were established for the first time ever in the history of Columbia University. Chandran is keenly interested in developing novel models for sustainable sanitation and wastewater treatment, with a specific focus on managing the global nitrogen cycle (one of the grand challenges of the National Academy of Engineering) and linking it to the carbon cycle, the water cycle and the energy cycle. Chandran has received, among other awards, the NSF CAREER award and the Paul Busch Award. He was the recipient of a 2007 National Academies of Science Fellowship and a guest professorship at the Delft University of Technology in 2008. In 2011, Chandran began implementing a novel model for sanitation in Africa, supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He also serves on the Board of Trustees of the Water Environment Federation and on the nomination committee of the Stockholm Water Prize.

More details on Dr. Chandran’s work can be found at www.columbia.edu/~kc2288.

This event is part of Imperfect Health: The Medicalization of Architecture, on view at the Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon University from Sept. 15, 2012 - Feb. 24, 2013. Through a wide range of materials including photographs, sculpture, video, publications, research and archival materials, design projects, and architectural models and drawings, Imperfect Health uncovers some of the uncertainties and contradictions in the current ideas of health and considers how architecture acknowledges, incorporates and affects health issues. For information, visit: www.cmu.edu/millergallery