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Civil Engineering Professor Erik Coats Receives Prestigious Wastewater Award

August 17, 2016

University of Idaho civil engineering professor Erik Coats has been selected to receive the 2016 Eddy Wastewater Principles/Processes Medal by the Water Environment Federation, a technical and educational organization representing water quality professionals and associations from around the world.

Coats and his co-authors, UI research scientist Cynthia Brinkman and former UI graduate student Zach Dobroth, received the award for their research, titled, “EBPR Using Crude Glycerol: Assessing Process Resiliency and Exploring Metabolic Anomalies.” Coats will accept the award at the Water Environment Federation’s (WEF) Creating the Future of Water technical exhibition and conference in New Orleans Sept. 27, 2016.

“WEF is proud to recognize Professor Coats, et al. for their contributions to furthering resource recovery in the wastewater treatment process. Their laboratory-scale research successfully demonstrated an enhanced removal of phosphate from wastewater that uses an anaerobic zone fed with crude glycerol, which is a byproduct of biodiesel manufacturing,” said WEF Executive Director Eileen O’Neill. “They are joining a distinguished group of award-winning water professionals who have provided exceptional contributions to the water sector that helps support and advance sustainable, smart water management.”

The Eddy Medal honors Harrison Prescott Eddy, a prominent engineer and a pioneer in the field of wastewater treatment. The medal is awarded annually for research that makes a vital contribution to the existing knowledge of the fundamental principles or process of wastewater treatment.

Coats, Dobroth and Brinkman’s work advances research into removing phosphorus from wastewater sources, which is vital to improving overall water quality. Governments across the country invest millions of dollars annually to treat municipal and farm wastewaters to remove phosphorus using both chemical and biological solutions. Coats and UI researchers found that crude glycerol, a byproduct of biodiesel manufacturing, can be used to achieve excess phosphorus removal from wastewaters.

"I was both surprised and pleased to receive this award. This research is particularly interesting, in that we identified a waste carbon source (crude glycerol) that can be utilized to enhance and stabilize a bacterial process for sustainably capturing phosphorus from wastewater," Coats said. "A primary focus of my research is to enhance biological removal of phosphorus from wastewater and deliver practical solutions to the industry. This work makes such a contribution."

Coats runs the UI Environmental Engineering and Wastewater Resource Recovery Laboratory. The lab provides research opportunities and has graduated dozens of graduate, undergraduates and post-doctoral students since it was founded in 2006. Researchers in the lab study processes to upcycle organic waste to useful products and are also heavily invested in improving the removal of nitrogen and phosphorus from municipal and dairy wastewaters.

“Not only does this prestigious award recognize professor Coats and his world-class research, but it puts the University of Idaho on the map as a destination program for those graduate and undergraduate students who are interested in Civil Engineering degrees with an emphasis in environmental engineering," said Patricia Colberg, chair of the Department of Civil Engineering.

Media Contacts:
Rob Patton
Marketing and Communications Manager
College of Engineering, University of Idaho

Erik Coats

About the University of Idaho

The University of Idaho, home of the Vandals, is Idaho’s land-grant, national research university. From its residential campus in Moscow, U of I serves the state of Idaho through educational centers in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls, nine research and Extension centers, plus Extension offices in 42 counties. Home to nearly 12,000 students statewide, U of I is a leader in student-centered learning and excels at interdisciplinary research, service to businesses and communities, and in advancing diversity, citizenship and global outreach. U of I competes in the Big Sky Conference. Learn more at