National Risk Management Research Laboratory (NRMRL)

FLC Region

Security Lab

No

Address

26 West Martin Luther King Drive
Mail Stop G75
Cincinnati, OH 45268
United States

Laboratory Representative

Description

As EPA's premiere laboratory for risk management research, NRMRL focuses on environmental problem-solving. Recognized as a national leader in scientific and engineering expertise and capability, NRMRL's research portfolio spans the five goals outlined in EPA's Strategic Plan, and directly supports efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve air quality, manage chemical risks, clean up hazardous waste sites, and protect America's water.

Environmental risk management seeks to determine what environmental risks exist and how to manage those risk in a way best suited to protect human health and the environment. Our mission is to advance scientific and engineering solutions to manage current and future environmental risk.

Mission

Our mission is to develop ways to prevent and reduce pollution of air, land, and water, and to restore ecosystems. With headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio, and divisions in North Carolina, Oklahoma, and New Jersey, our staff of several hundred scientists and engineers shares the mission to solve a wide range of environmental challenges.

Tech Areas

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Success Stories
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Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets maximum contaminant levels that apply at the entry point into a distribution system rather than within the distribution system. Because monitoring contaminants is not normally conducted at the consumer’s tap, their presence can go undetected. If nitrification resulting from elevated ammonia levels in the source water occurs in the distribution system, elevated levels of nitrites and nitrate can reach the consumer.

EPA designed and patented a technology to oxidize ammonia in drinking water before it reaches the distribution system, which avoids nitrification in the distribution system and other problems associated with the presence of ammonia. Since 2014, EPA’s National Risk Management Research Laboratory in Cincinnati, Ohio has partnered with AdEdge Water Technologies, LLC, of Duluth, Georgia, to further develop and commercialize the technology. Together, the EPA and AdEdge have collaborated to evaluate a two-stage aerobic treatment system for the removal of ammonia from drinking water. The treatment approach enhances the natural nitrification process during which, in the presence of oxygen, ammonia is converted to nitrite and then to nitrate. AdEdge holds a license of this technology and has marketed it as NoMonia, an innovative water treatment technology to remove ammonia, arsenic, iron, and manganese.

Many regions in the United States have excessive ammonia in groundwater from natural and agricultural sources. While ammonia in water does not pose a direct health concern, nitrification of significant amounts of ammonia may. Ammonia in water may create high chlorine demand for disinfection (if addressed by breakpoint chlorination). In the presence of total organic carbon, excess chlorine is a concern because it creates a disinfection by-product. High ammonia levels may interfere with the removal of other regulated contaminants such as arsenic, iron, and manganese. Ammonia in raw water may also result in nitrification in the distribution systems, and can cause corrosion, poor taste, and odor issues. Legacy treatment approaches for the removal of ammonia, such as ion exchange or reverse osmosis, generate high total dissolved solids (TDS) wastewater, a challenge that the NoMonia biological treatment process eliminates. As a product of the collaboration, a pilot demonstration was concluded in August 2017 in Gilbert, Iowa. The pilot demonstration provided the city, AdEdge and the EPA with multiple data sets to further establish critical design parameters of a full-scale treatment system. AdEdge is working with the community and their engineer firm to design a full-scale system based on the pilot results. Additional pilot demonstrations are anticipated in other areas, such as Illinois and Minnesota. The technology is available for licensing by additional companies.

For its significant impact and technology transfer success, EPA's NoMonia technology was selected as the recipient of the 2017 FLC Technology Focus Award

The original success story appeared on the EPA website, to view click here

 

Full-scale treatment system for oxidizing ammonia in drinking water. (Photo credit: Darren Lytle, USEPA)

According to the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) National Water Quality Inventory Report to Congress, fecal bacteria are one of the leading causes of U.S. surface water impairment. The presence of fecal bacteria at elevated levels originating from human and other animal wastes in community water systems, at recreational beaches, and shellfish harvesting areas is correlated to negative public health outcomes ranging from the more common mild gastrointestinal illness to the rare and more severe illness or even death.

To protect human health, in 1972 Congress passed the Clean Water Act, mandating the EPA to provide the public with technologies to monitor for fecal pollution. The scientific community responded with the development of technologies ranging from chemical indicators to canine monitoring. EPA scientists recently sought an innovative approach through the study of fecal bacterial communities at a molecular level. The result was the development of novel genetic-based technologies that can measure human and cattle fecal pollution levels in surface water samples. The Microbial Source Tracking (MST) methods are technologies aimed at identifying and, in some instances, quantifying fecal animal sources of contamination in environmental waters.

The EPA's U.S. Patent No. US8574839 B2 describes genetic technologies that can estimate the concentration of human and cattle fecal pollution in environmental water samples.

Due to nationwide fecal pollution concerns and more than 290 peer-reviewed scientific citations, there is a growing demand by academic, state, and municipal government laboratories to implement EPA MST technologies. To accommodate interest from nonprofit entities, the EPA developed a new strategy whereby technology can be simultaneously transferred to commercial partners while making it available to noncommercial entities. This was accomplished through two new license formats in addition to the commercial license.

The academic sector can apply for a royalty-free "research" license for a specific project. Researchers are encouraged to publish results in peer-reviewed literature. To date, 13 licenses have been awarded to university research laboratories, leading to important scientific advancements in the MST field and a better understanding of EPA technology performance. Government laboratories can also receive a royalty-free license, but are restricted to using the technology within their jurisdiction. In addition, a "government" license prohibits the use of the technology on a fee-for-service basis.

Two private companies have applied for and been granted commercial licenses. One commercial license holder has added five employees in the past three years and doubled revenue for four years in a row. In 2016, the company plans to hire a minimum of eight additional employees and implement an international business plan.

(Photo credit: EPA)