The primary NASA application for the proposed treatment system is the capability of rapidly and reliably starting up a biological wastewater system. This innovative treatment system will ultimately be capable of shortening the start up time of a wastewater treatment system to 15 days while enabling the to plant to remove high levels of organic carbon and nitrogen. It may be possible to use the inoculum to remotely start a wastewater treatment system, thus permitting the system to be operational at the time of occupancy of the station. A secondary application of the inoculum is for use as a backup in the event of failure of the wastewater system. This capability would be useful in cases of toxic shock, equipment failure, operator error, etc. Another application of the inoculum is its use as a standardized base to ensure reliable, uniform treatment. Use of a standard inoculum would lessen variability during treatment and simplify process control. A standard inoculum would permit different researchers to better compare research results. It would also simplify testing potential new wastewater constituents to determine how they may affect treatment
Currently the wastewater treatment industry is being revolutionized by a new type of treatment that can remove nitrogen from wastewater at less than half the present cost. The combination of simultaneous nitrification/denitrification (SND) coupled with deammonification has moved out of the research phase and is being implemented in plants throughout the world with the Blue Plains WWTP in Washington, DC being one of the early adopters. Although this technology is starting to be used, it is still in its infancy with less than 50 full-scale installations worldwide. Unfortunately, one of the primary organisms, anammox, necessary for this type of treatment has an extremely slow growth rate and it can take up to a year to start up a plant unless it receives seed from another plant. Even with seeding, plants generally take 50 days or more to start. Developing an inoculum to rapidly and reliably start up a mixed SND/deammonification system has great commercial possibilities. The Chesapeake Bay watershed is an excellent example of the possible economic potential of this new technology. The Bay's watershed has 539 treatment plants that are under or are coming under mandate to remove nitrogen. The estimated cost for nitrogen removal in 2002 was $8.2 billion for these plants. Development of a process to rapidly and reliably start up mixed SND/deammonification plants has the potential to be extremely profitable and be the source of significant environmental improvement.