Civil engineering master’s candidate Alexis Countryman received the Water Council’s Future Water Leaders Fund Student Pilot Project for her wastewater treatment project that she hopes will make a positive environmental impact on smaller communities.

The project is a pilot test of two technologies for wastewater treatment in Brookfield, Wisconsin. “The technologies are used to remove nutrients from wastewater that could be potentially detrimental to the environment,” explained Countryman. “The focus of the technology is on private wastewater treatment systems like septic systems. The system is installed at Brookfield Wastewater Treatment Facility where it pulls the wastewater from the facility. From this point, the water is treated in a series of five concrete tanks.”

The project is a continuation of a previous master’s degree student, Jill (Vande Boom) Dam. Doug Nelson, associate professor, encouraged Countryman to complete the project. Nelson; Jeff MacDonald, lab technician; and William Krill, lecturer; supported Countryman throughout her project. She also received assistance through industry partners including Lakeshore Burial Vaults, Knight Treatment Systems and First Supply.  

The goal of this project revolves around the whole reason Countryman decided to pursue a career in civil engineering: to make a positive impact on the lives of others.

“The goal is that the system can effectively remove the nutrients in the wastewater before the wastewater is discharged. If the nutrient removal efficiencies are what we expect, I foresee this technology making a major difference in smaller communities and being utilized as a more affordable option of nutrient removal.” 

The Water Council’s award includes $5,000 that Countryman plans to use to help fund the cost of sampling, which can be extensive and expensive to generate conclusive results. The project was installed in April and will be deployed through November.

“This project is a perfect way for me to make an impact on the future of wastewater treatment. I am excited to see, firsthand, the potential of new technologies.”

Countryman is grateful for her professors in the Civil and Architectural Engineering and Construction Management Department for providing her the knowledge and skillsets she needed for this project, including her wastewater treatment, chemistry, hydraulics, and data analysis courses taught by Drs. Fran Mahuta and William Gonwa. “These professors provided a foundation for the work I am doing with this project and continue to provide guidance for the project itself. I couldn’t have chosen a better university to provide the framework for this project’s success.”