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Erik R. Coats, P.E., Ph.D.

Erik R. Coats, P.E., Ph.D.

Director, Engineering Management Program; Associate Professor


Buchanan 129



Mailing Address

Civil & Environmental Engineering
University of Idaho
875 Perimeter Drive, MS 1022
Moscow, ID 83844-1022

  • Ph.D., Civil Engineering, Washington State University, December 2005
  • M.S., Civil Engineering, University of Idaho, May 1994
  • B.S., Civil Engineering, University of Idaho, December 1990

Erik Coats has focused his research efforts on advancing microbial processes for upcycling organic waste streams to high-value commodities and on developing an enhanced understanding of microbial wastewater treatment processes. To date, his research team has advanced a biotechnology for producing polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs; biological, biodegradable thermoplastics) on fermented organic waste, with commercial application on the horizon. The PHA process readily integrates with anaerobic digestion, but can also be deployed independently. Coats’ research team also has conducted extensive research into the wastewater treatment process known as enhanced biological phosphorus removal (EBPR), with a particular emphasis on process optimization to reliably achieve better quality effluent. Phosphorus in reclaimed water is of great concern in many regions of the U.S. and wastewater treatment plants commonly employ non-sustainable chemical treatment methods to meet permit criteria. Among other efforts, Coats is advancing a post-anoxic EBPR process that can achieve better phosphorus and nitrogen removal than conventional processes while requiring less energy.

Prior to earning his doctorate, Erik Coats spent 13 years working as a professional consulting engineer, mostly in the Portland, Ore. region, designing municipal water and wastewater systems. After earning his doctorate, Coats returned to his alma mater, joining the U of I Civil & Environmental Engineering faculty in 2006. Coats is a licensed professional engineer in Oregon, Washington and Idaho, and his technical background includes civil/environmental engineering, microbiology, biochemistry and biotechnology. Coats remains very engaged with the engineering consulting profession; he has served on the Pacific NW Clean Water Association Board of Directors and regularly provides expertise to wastewater utilities in the region.

  • Zhang, M., Wang, H., S. Jin, P. H. Fallgren, and P. J. S. Colberg. 2016. Electrochemically enhanced reduction of trichloroethylene by passivated zero-valent iron. J. Environ. Chem. Eng. 4:599-604.
  • Huo, G., F. Liu, M. Liu, X. Kong, S. Li, L. Chen, P. J. S. Colberg, S. Jin, and H. Chen. 2014. Performance of a permeable reactive barrier for the in situ remediation of ammonia in groundwater. Water Sci. Technol. 14.4:585-592.
  • Chen, L., S. Jin, P. H. Fallgren, N. Swoboda-Colberg, F. Liu, and P. J. S. Colberg. 2012. Electrochemical depassivation of zero-valent iron for TCE reduction. J. Hazard. Mater. 239-240:265-269.
  • Borman, C. J., B. P. Sullivan, C. M. Eggleston, and P. J. S. Colberg. 2010. Is iron redox cycling in a high altitude watershed photochemically or thermally driven? Chem. Geol. 269:33-39.
  • Jin, S., J. I. Drever, and P. J. S. Colberg. 2007. Effects of copper on bacterial consortia enriched from metal-contaminated and uncontaminated sediments. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 26:225-230.
  • Markwiese, J. T., and P. J. S. Colberg. 2000. Bacterial reduction of copper-contaminated sediments: Copper toxicity and the interaction between fermentative and Fe(III)-reducing bacteria. Archiv. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 38:139-146.
  • Bedessem, M. E., N. G. Swoboda-Colberg, and P. J. S. Colberg. 1997. Naphthalene mineralization coupled to sulfate reduction in aquifer-derived enrichments. FEMS Microbiol. Lett. 152:213-218.
  • Colberg, P. J. S., and L. Y. Young. 1995. Anaerobic Degradation of Nonhalogenated Homocyclic Aromatic Compounds Coupled with Nitrate, Iron or Sulfate, pp. 301-324. In L. Y. Young and C. E. Cerniglia (eds.), Microbiological Transformation and Degradation of Toxic Organic Chemicals, Wiley-Liss, New York.
  • Colberg, P. J. S. 1991. The role of sulfate in microbial transformations of environmental contaminants: chlorinated aromatic compounds. Geomicrobiol. J. 8:147-165.
  • Kuhn, E. P., P. J. Colberg, J. L. Schnoor, O. Wanner, A. J. B. Zehnder, and R. P. Schwarzenbach. 1985. Microbial transformations of substituted benzenes during infiltration of river water to ground water: laboratory column studies. Environ. Sci. Technol. 19:961-968.

  • Washington Dairy Products Commission. Separating and concentrating value from dairy wastes.
  • National Science Foundation, CBET-Environmental Sustainability. Synthesizing Polyhydroxyalkanoates from Fermented Dairy Manure.
  • Idaho Dairymen’s Association. Producing Commercial Bio-Plastics from Fermented Dairy Manure.
  • Idaho INBRE (Idea Network of Biomedical Research). Characterizing the Microbial Ecology of EBPR Systems Cultured on Synthetic and Real Wastewaters.

Contact Us

Buchanan Engineering Building Rm. 102

Mailing Address:

Civil & Environmental Engineering
University of Idaho
875 Perimeter Drive MS 1022
Moscow, ID 83844-1022

Phone: 208-885-6782