How Rio Can Clean Polluted Waters in Time for the 2016 Olympic Games

July 22, 2016

Kartik Chandran, associate professor of earth and environmental engineering, is an authority on environmentally sustainable wastewater treatment and sanitation. He has been collaborating with research groups in Brazil focused on energy-efficient wastewater treatment. One goal is for an existing sewage treatment plant to discharge better water quality into Guanabara Bay, where sailing events for the 2016 Olympic Games will be held, while also emitting smaller amounts of greenhouse gases.

He recently led a team of Columbia students who developed bioprocess technologies to improve the capacity of the Algeria sewage treatment plant, which discharges into Guanabara Bay with a big impact on environmental and human health. A prototype developed at Columbia was demonstrated in Rio de Janeiro. He also has been involved in a similar upgrade of the wastewater treatment infrastructure of New York City to improve treatment and protect very sensitive water bodies surrounding the city.

Chandran was named a 2015 MacArthur Fellow for his work in “transforming wastewater from a pollutant requiring disposal to a resource for useful products, such as commodity chemicals, energy sources and fertilizers.” His current work partners with water utilities around the globe to improve water quality using much smaller amounts of energy and chemicals and even recovering chemicals and energy.

To learn more about Brazil on a range of issues including climate change, Zika virus and political economics, visit Columbia's Insight on Brazil.