• CURRENT RESEARCH CONSORTIUM

    MWRD BIOGRAPHIES

    Dr. Dominic A. Brose is an environmental soil scientist at MWRD. His research focuses on nutrients and emerging contaminants in wastewater treatment processes and biosolids as they relate to the beneficial reuse of biosolids in urban and rural landscapes. Dr. Brose has an extensive background in applying statistical and risk-based methods to understanding environmental processes. Before joining MWRD, Dr. Brose was a program officer for the Science and Technology for Sustainability Program at the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine where he directed workshops on urban sustainability, critical earth metals, and the recovery and reuse of waste products. He also worked as a research assistant with the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Before joining the National Academies, Dr. Brose was an environmental consultant for ToxServices, LLC where he conducted human health and environmental risk screening. Dr. Brose received his B.S. in Natural Resources and Environmental Science from Purdue University, and his M.S. and Ph.D. in Environmental Science and Technology from the University of Maryland.

     

    Research Interests:

    • Pollutant and nutrient cycling in urban soils and the impacts land-applying biosolids has on these cycles
    • Fate of emerging contaminates in wastewater treatment and biosolids processes
    • Chemical and biological impacts on phosphorus removal from wastewater treatment processes
  • Dr. Albert Cox is a Managing Scientist in the Environmental Monitoring and Research Division, Monitoring and Research Department at MWRD. He coordinates the services and resources of technical staff conducting research, environmental monitoring and regulatory compliance. He also provides technical guidance in the areas of aquatic ecology, microbiology, soil science, and biosolids management. Dr. Cox coordinates MWRD’s collaborations with the agricultural sector in developing watershed-based approaches to address nutrient discharge. Dr. Cox been at MWRD for 17 years, during most of which he led the soil science team and conducted research related to bioavailability and controlling the impacts of biosolids-borne metals and nutrients in the environment. Before joining MWRD, Dr. Cox worked as a consultant providing services on reuse and management of water resources in agriculture and land application of biosolids. Dr. Cox currently serves on the Policy Working Group and other committees of Illinois Statewide Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy. He chairs the Biosolids Committee of Illinois Association of Wastewater Agencies. Dr. Cox has an MS in Soil Science from Clemson University and a PhD. in Agronomy from Purdue University.

     

    Research Interests:

    • Watershed-based approaches to reducing nutrient discharge to surface waters
    • Building public support for beneficial reuse of biosolids
  • Dr. Joseph Kozak is a Supervising Environmental Research Scientist at MWRD and manager of MWRD’s Resource Recovery Biological Phosphorus program. His current research includes sludge dewatering and polymer reduction, odor control, biological phosphorus removal and recovery, algal nutrient removal, mainstream and sidestream short cut biological nitrogen removal, co-digestion and co-fermentation of high-strength waste, ammonia-based aeration control, and greenhouse gas emissions from wastewater treatment. He is the leader of the Water Environment and Reuse Foundation (WE&RF) Leaders Innovation Forum for Technology (LIFT) Odor workgroup and a member of the LIFT Phosphorus Recovery and Biological Nutrient Removal workgroups. He is also a member of the Illinois Nutrient Removal and Recovery Committee as well as the WE&RF Municipal Resource Recovery Design Committee. Dr. Kozak has over 35 published papers. He holds a Bachelors in Geology from the University of Notre Dame, a Masters in Environmental Geosciences from Michigan State University, and a doctorate in Environmental Engineering from Northwestern University and is also a registered professional engineer with the state of Illinois.

     

    Research Interests:

    • Mainstream and sidestream biological nitrogen and phosphorus removal
    • Odor control in collection systems
    • Ammonia-based aeration control in activated sludge treatment
    • Resource recovery, especially sidestream or sludge phosphorus recovery
  • Dr. Kuldip Kumar is a Senior Environmental Soil Scientist at MWRD. He has been involved with land application of biosolids and composted biosolids in the Chicago area for the past 11 years. He has more than 25 years of experience in the area of water quality especially fate and transport of nutrients and other environmental stressors like pharmaceuticals and personal care products. For the last 5 years, his research has been focused on ‘Resources Recovery from Wastewater’ with a focus on nutrients removal and recovery from wastewater. He manages research program on utilizing algae to recover nutrients from wastewater and develop markets for algae biomass based on its characteristics. He also leads the research efforts on ‘Green Infrastructure – Best Management Practices for Managing Stormwater’ at MWRD.

     

    Dr. Kumar also serves on the editorial board of Agronomy Journal and he is the in-coming Chair of Soil and environmental Quality Division of Soil Science Society of America and American Society of Agronomy. Dr. Kumar has published over 70 research articles/book chapters and has served on many federal grant review panels.

  • Tom A. Minarik Jr., is an Aquatic Biologist with at MWRD. Tom has worked for MWRD for 18 years in the Monitoring and Research Department as part of the Aquatic Ecology and Water Quality section. His focus is on water quality monitoring and research in the Chicago area waterways. This monitoring includes water chemistry, sediment chemistry and toxicity, and biological monitoring including fish surveys, benthic invertebrate surveys, and habitat assessments. Since 2010, he has been the project manager for the District’s continuous dissolved oxygen monitoring program. This program provides data for compliance with NPDES permits and also supports water quality modeling efforts. Tom is also the project manager for various collaborative research studies on endocrine active compounds in urban river systems. One multi-year study looked the spatial and temporal occurrence of endocrine active compounds in the Chicago area waterways and the potential to cause endocrine disruption in wild fish populations. Currently Tom is working to assess load reduction of endocrine active compounds and biological recovery to fish after 500 million gallon per day treatment plant upgrades in an effluent dominated aquatic ecosystem.

     

    Research Interests:

    • Continuous monitoring systems and programs.
    • Sources, fate, and transport of contaminants of emerging concern.
    • Aquatic invasive species management.
    • Watershed based approaches to tackle water quality issues.
  • Dr. Olawale Oladeji is an Environmental Soil Scientist at MWRD. He is a co-leader of the MWRD’s Nutrient Loss Reduction Research at Fulton County Site, where his work focuses on a denitrification bioreactor, drainage water management, runoff irrigation, and riparian restoration. Dr. Oladeji is also involved in the MWRD’s biosolids beneficial reuse program, where he oversees biosolids application on farmland and works closely with community leaders to incorporate biosolids use in urban turf management. Dr. Oladeji’s current research projects on biosolids includes long-term studies on sustainability of biosolids land application and long-term impacts and bioavailability of nutrients and other constituents from biosolids as soil amendments. Prior to joining MWRD, Dr. Oladeji was a Research Associate at University of Florida where he did research on BMPs to reduce nutrients export from farmers’ fields to agricultural drainage canals, and organized on-farm training for farmers on BMPs. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Michigan State University doing research on land application of biosolids. Dr. Oladeji holds a Ph.D. in Soil Science with a minor in Statistics from University of Florida.

     

    Research Interests:

    • Best Management Practices to reduce nutrient loss from agricultural fields
    • Long-term studies on sustainability of biosolids land application
    • Agronomic benefits of land applied biosolids
    • Biosolids composting and use of compost
  • Edward W. Podczerwinski, P.E. is the current director of the Monitoring and Research Department, which conducts environmental monitoring to assess regulatory compliance and impacts of District operations, applied research to provide technical support for operations and administers the District’s Resource Recovery, Industrial Pretreatment and User Charge programs. Mr. Podczerwinski has been employed by the District for over 20 years and has managed numerous engineering projects at various MWRD facilities. Most recently, he has been involved in MWRD Regulatory and District Initiative Planning, Biosolids Master Planning, and Odor Master Planning. Mr. Podczerwinski holds a MS in structural engineering from Warsaw University of Technology in Warsaw, Poland, and a BS in civil engineering from the same university, and he is a co-author of a number of published articles and presentations.

  • Dr. Cindy Qin is an Environmental Research Scientist at MWRD whose work is focused on effluent nutrient reduction and includes side stream ammonia removal and enhanced biological phosphorus removal (EBPR). Among Dr. Qin’s studies are operational optimization of EBPR at Stickney and Calumet WRP, sequencing batch reactor (SBR) study of high strength organic material (HSOM) addition to an EBPR process, full scale carbon addition study at the Calumet WRP, deammonification pilot study and Anita™Mox startup at the Egan WRP, and HSOM screening protocol development. Dr. Qin has published the results of these studies and presented some of them at WEFTEC, Nutrient Symposium, WATERCON and IWPC.

     

    Research Interests:

    • Nutrients in water and agricultural landscapes into valued products
    • Waste organics into renewable resources for energy, platform chemicals and biomaterials
    • Discharge regulations into a regional nutrient value trading market
  • Dr. Geeta Rijal is a Section Head of the Analytical Microbiology and Biomonitoring Section at MWRD. Dr. Rijal directs the analytical microbiology laboratory regulatory monitoring programs & research projects on biological wastewater treatment operations, Chicago area rivers, lakes, and canals. Currently, in partnership with the Argonne National Laboratory, she is leading a metagenomics microbial source tracking project for the Chicago River.

     

    Prior to joining the MWRD, Dr. Rijal was a researcher at the Water Resources Research Center at the University of Hawaii, where her studies included approaches to multiple indicator/pathogen-based water quality assessment of the Hawaiian island drinking water and the use of solar power UV, pasteurization, and full-scale UV systems in wastewater treatment. Dr. Rijal holds a Ph.D. in environmental microbiology from the University of Hawaii. Dr. Rijal has published and presented her research, and two of the MWRD’s projects conducted under her leadership have won prestigious awards by the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists.

     

    Research Interests:

    • Microbial water, wastewater, and biosolids quality assessment to address the impacts on environment, human health and management implications.
    • Microbial Source Tracking
    • Real-time on-line microbiological quality monitoring system  
    • Evaluating innovative wastewater treatment technologies to improve efficiency in nutrient removal process and resource recovery.
  • Dr. Guanglong Tian is the Supervising Environmental Soil Scientist at the Environmental Monitoring and Research Division, Monitoring and Research Department at MWRD. Dr. Tian is leading the MWRD’s Nutrient Loss Reduction Research at Fulton County Site, the goal of which is to develop and demonstrate agricultural management practices that can effectively reduce non-point source nutrient loss. Dr. Tian’s research focuses on the development of workable cover crop systems, riparian restoration, multi-functional perennial grass buffer, denitrification bioreactor, runoff irrigation, and possibly constructed wetland. Dr. Tian also manages several biosolids programs at MWRD and has extensive experience in monitoring surface and groundwater quality in Fulton County watersheds.

     

    As a result of his research on carbon sequestration by soil, Dr. Tian has proposed a biosolids carbon sequestration index, which is being used nationally to develop guidelines for using greenhouse gas credits in the disposal and utilization of biosolids. Prior to joining MWRD, Dr. Tian worked on developing sustainable agricultural systems at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Ibadan, Nigeria. Dr. Tian received a Ph.D. from Wageningen (Agricultural) University, the Netherlands, and authored numerous publications, including a book.

     

    Research Interests:

    • Agroecosystem nutrient loss reduction
    • Surface and groundwater quality
    • Constructed wetland for nutrients harvesting and removal
    • (Biosolids) soil carbon sequestration and soil health restoration
    • Biosolids composting and biosolids compost utilization
  • Jennifer Wasik has been an aquatic biologist at MWRD since 2001. She is responsible for overseeing monitoring programs to meet regulatory requirements, such as ambient and continuous water quality monitoring, as well as post construction monitoring for major capital investments to reduce combined sewer overflows into the Chicago Area Waterways System (CAWS). Ms. Wasik also manages the MWRD section that conducts biological, physical habitat, and sediment assessments in the urban waterways in and around Chicago.

     

    Current focus areas for Ms. Wasik include evaluating impacts and mitigation of road salt runoff in the Chicago region, nutrient implementation planning in receiving waters, optimizing discretionary diversion from Lake Michigan to the CAWS, and working with local partners to achieve goals set out in the “Great Rivers Plan” for river systems around Chicago. Ms. Wasik’s diverse past work experience includes studying lateral line physiology in fish, conducting cell bioassays and molecular techniques to study genetic treatments for a cancer-causing disorder. She has a BS in Biology from the University of Michigan and an MS in Environmental Management from the Illinois Institute of Technology.

     

    Research Interests:

    • Regulatory issues in water quality
    • Watershed management
    • Biomonitoring
    • Improving ecosystem services and habitat availability in urban aquatic environments
    • Impacts of sediment pollution
  • Ms. Fenghua Yang is a senior environmental research scientist at MWRD, leading a team of supporting environmental research scientists and environmental research technicians to conduct research in innovative wastewater and sludge processing technologies. Prior to joining MWRD, she worked as senior project manager for the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, managing and administering energy projects for plant improvements and sustainable energy management. Ms. Yang has also worked for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and has over 10 years’ experience in consulting business as lead engineer working on 30+ water and wastewater related projects.

     

    Currently, Ms. Yang leads MWRD research efforts in the following areas: 1) mainstream shortcut biological nitrogen removal through nitrite shunt or deammonification with carbon redirection for sustainable wastewater treatment, for energy recovery, and achieving energy neutrality, 2) implementation of an enhanced biological phosphorus removal process with testing of carbon augmentation via return activated sludge and mixed liquor fermentation, and 3) ammonia based aeration control optimization in the secondary treatment process. Ms. Yang is a licensed PE and also holds a Board Certified Environmental Engineer license specialized in the water and wastewater.

     

    Research Interests:

    • Shortcut biological nitrogen removal
    • Carbon redirection for energy recovery coupled with nutrient removal and recovery.
    • Enhanced biological phosphorus removal
    • Resource recovery technologies including nitrogen, phosphorous, and energy.
    • Energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies for sustainable energy management in water reclamation facilities.
  • Dr. Heng Zhang received his Ph.D. in Environmental and Water Resource Engineering from the Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN. He is currently the Assistant Director of Monitoring and Research with MWRDGC, managing a division of nearly 90 people with over 30 scientists and engineers specializing in wastewater treatment process research, biosolids management and research, analytical microbiology, aquatic ecology, water quality monitoring, and process facilities capital planning. He has over 29 years of experience in municipal and industrial wastewater treatment and water quality modeling. He has conducted numerous studies and design projects in mesophilic and thermophilic anaerobic digestion, biological phosphorus and nitrogen removal, chemical phosphorus removal in primary and secondary treatment processes, aeration efficient evaluation, side-stream deammonifcation, co-fermentation for generating VFA for bio-P or WASSTRIP, co-digestion, water quality modeling, and wet weather flow characterizations.

     

    Research Interests:

    • Innovative technologies for nutrient recovery, energy conservation and other resources recovery in municipal wastewater treatment plants
    • Efficient use of carbon in wastewater through the wastewater reclamation processes
    • Innovative technologies for biosolids processing include hydrothermal processes
    • Algae technologies for harvesting nutrients from wastewater