The George Washington University
Engineering Management & Systems Engineering Department (EMSE)
Environmental & Energy Management Program (E&EM)

Fall 2004 (Volume 5, Number 2)


E&EM Begins Research Project with
Pubic Health Service and National Park Service

In the Fall 2004 semester, doctoral candidate Edward Hagarty began a research project in conjunction with the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) and the U.S. National Park Service (NPS). The project, entitled “Toward Long-Term Sustainability of Our National Parks: Improving the Management and Operation of Park System Wastewater Treatment Systems,” involves an analysis of the existing wastewater treatment systems in the national park system, development of a prototype database designed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of PHS actions to manage park system wastewater treatment systems, design a prototype Internet-based system to facilitate acquisition and maintenance of data populating the database; and the design, verification and validation of an appropriate technology selection model to assist PHS personnel with the identification of new system processes and existing system upgrades that are optimal in terms of relevant selection criteria and constraints.

Doctoral candidate Hagarty and Dr. Deason are working with CAPT Charles L. Higgins, Director, and Commander Jason Thomas, Deputy Director, of the National Park Service’s Public Health Program, and Shawn Norton, Director of the Environmental Leadership Program of the National Park Service. Also involved in the new project are Associate Professor Theresa L. Jefferson, Lead Professor of the Software Engineering and Information System Management Program, and doctoral candidate Mark Andress.

The research project is designed to help the Public Health Service utilize the latest developments in systems engineering to address the difficult challenges of wastewater treatment within the expansive National Park System. Many of the 1,600 wastewater systems in the park system need to be able to handle widely varying flows that range from zero in the off-season to high flows that exceed system design capacities during peak seasons. Also, most of the systems need to be relatively simple to operate as the system operators are likely wear several hats, reducing the potential to have dedicated staff to operate a complicated system.

Due to the size of many national parks, there typically are many types of systems operating in any given park that vary from simple on-site systems with zero discharge to central collection and treatment systems which are more complicated and have significant operation and maintenance requirements. In addition to these difficulties, the operation and management of park treatment systems is complicated by the fact that there currently is no comprehensive inventory of existing wastewater treatment systems in the park system, nor comprehensive records indicating degrees of NPDES compliance for regulated facilities.

The new research project will be incorporated into the Sustainability Project currently underway pursuant to an existing cooperative agreement between the NPS and GW. A major objective of the research will be the development of a technology selection model that will use a searchable database to assist engineers in determining the best type of wastewater treatment systems to consider, based on historical system performance as related to flows, flow fluctuations (daily and seasonal), climate, discharge limitations, and other relevant factors for small flow systems typical of those in a national park setting. This tool will be useful for other applications where low flows and/or flows with high seasonal fluctuations exist. Also, a password protected, Internet-based system will be developed to allow efficient, real-time data to be collected, as well to facilitate other means of intra- and inter-park coordination.

Jonathan P. Deason, Ph.D., Lead Professor