Join Our 2018 Biological Nutrient Removal
Microbiome Study

Join Our 2018 Biological Nutrient Removal Microbiome Study


Microbe Detectives, along with support from Black & Veatch is conducting a multi-client study focused on optimizing Biological Nutrient Removal (BNR) programs at municipal wastewater treatment facilities.

Biological Nutrient Removal Study Objectives

  • Enable and quantify substantial gains in BNR performance
  • Apply DNA sequencing and operational data analyses to link microbiome digital signature to BNR performance
  • Digitize the microbiome of many different BNR systems across different facilities, climates, and times of year.
  • Educate the BNR industry on insights and possibilities
  • Provide educational opportunities for participants to “tell their story”

Biological Nutrient Removal Study Deliverables

Microbe Detectives will provide specialized DNA sequencing, analyses, and Microbiome Digital Signature reports on a regular basis to participating facilities. Operational data will also be collected, analyzed and incorporated into the study where possible.

All DNA sequencing and operational data across all participating facilities will be aggregated, analyzed and incorporated into The 2018 Performance Comparison of Bio Nutrient Removal report. Participants of the study will receive a complimentary copy of this report.



Dr. Leon Downing will present key findings at the 2018 Microbiome Water Summit. This session will be video recorded and streamed live on the Internet with free access. Participants will have the opportunity to collaborate, co-present, participate on panels and network at the 2018 Microbiome Water Summit and other conferences.

BNR 90 Second Insights

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Leon Downing, Ph.D., Principal Process and Innovation Leader, Black & Veatch

BNR + Metagenomics = $360,000 Annual Savings

Biological Nutrient Removal [BNR] What we’re looking at is finding ways to remove phosphorus and nitrogen from the wastewater biologically instead of chemically. That results in a lower net resource consumption. It also allows us to actually recover phosphorus and nitrogen. Instead of treating it, where we are removing it from the water but have another environmental impact (which is the disposal of solid waste), it actually allows us to concentrate those nutrients, pull them out, and get them back into the fertilizer cycle. Biological Nutrient Removal really drives a lot that is protecting the waterways. It’s recovering valuable resources and at the end of day it actually uses less energy to treat water than conventional processes.

A really great success story of using metagenomics in wastewater treatment and resource recovery involves a facility outside of Dallas, Texas. They’ve been doing metagenomic sequencing for about three years now and over that period of time they’ve used that to understand their ecology and give them confidence in operating their facility in a different way. With that they’ve been able to change operational strategies that reduced annual costs by three-hundred and sixty-thousand dollars a year.

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Trevor Ghylin, Ph.D., P.E. Founder/CTO, Microbe Detectives

How can DNA sequencing help BNR operators?

DNA sequencing can help operators that are trying to do BNR in their plant finally see the bacteria that are necessary for that process. Without DNA data it’s really hard to know what’s going on in a plant. You can see phosphorus levels going down but you don’t know if that’s just normal biological uptake or are your chemicals doing something? With DNA data you can actually see you have the biological phosphorous bacteria in there, there’s only a couple different types to do that. Either you’ve got them or you don’t and you can see how many are, and you can track those populations over time. The same goes for ammonia removers and denitrifying.

DNA Analysis and Microbiome Digital Signature Report

This analysis is specialized for measuring and monitoring the ecology of Biological Nutrient Removal (BNR) systems in a wastewater treatment facility for the purpose of optimizing their performance.

  • All nitrogen and phosphorous consuming microbes known to science are identified along with a quantification of percent prevalence.
  • PAOs and GAOs are tracked on a dashboard for BioP programs including a trend analysis over time.
  • AOBs and NOBs are tracked for nitrogen removal programs.
  • The top ten microbes based on percent prevalence are identified plus many others important in wastewater treatment, and a complete listing of all microbes identified.

Results are communicated in a Microbiome Digital Signature (MDS) report to create actionable insight, see sample below:

Lead Author of 2018 Biological Nutrient Removal Study

leon downing

Dr. Leon Downing is Principal Process and Innovation Leader with Black & Veatch. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, Leon then received his M.S. and PhD from the University of Notre Dame, focusing on process modeling and energy efficient biological nutrient removal.

Over the past decade, Dr. Downing has focused on the application of process modeling, innovative technologies, and operational strategies within the wastewater treatment field.  Leon has most recently been contributing the shift in our industry from wastewater treatment to resource recovery.  Leon was the vice chair and contributing author for the recent WEF publication Moving Towards Resource Recovery Facilities, he has served on the Issue Area Team for the WERF Resource Recovery Challenge research program, and he has been involved with the evaluation, design, and/or operation of multiple energy efficiency, biogas utilization, and struvite harvesting projects.

How to Participate in Biological Nutrient Removal Study:

1. Order DNA Analysis

Select from 3 packages, priced for one system in one facility, based on number of samples sequenced and reports issued. Prices include collection kits, analyses, and Microbiome Digital Signature reports.

Add Quantitation



Reports are provided to participants at no charge.