Hundreds of different harmful pollutants have contaminated valuable water supplies and resources. Many of these contaminants are recalcitrant (resistant to degradation), and their safe and effective removal from water can be cost prohibitive. For example, chlorinated solvents like trichloroethylene and chloroform are likely human carcinogens with myriad health effects at varying kinds and levels of exposure. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established a maximum contaminant level (MCL) for TCE in drinking water of 5 (ug/L). Another recalcitrant compound N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) is also a probable carcinogen with maximum notification levels of 10 ng/L in many states. Collectively, recalcitrant organic pollutants in water affect hundreds of thousands of sites in the United States and severely confound public and private water treatment efforts. Compared with physical and chemical technologies, biological treatment offers the potential for low-energy, reliable, and eco-friendly degradation of these compounds into innocuous products. Even so, existing methods in applying biological technologies and inducing biodegradation of recalcitrant organics via cometabolism suffer from a number of drawbacks that lead to unreliable performance and high costs. This Phase I feasibility seeks to remedy many of the disadvantages with existing biological treatment technologies through a multidisciplinary approach drawing on materials science, applied microbiology, and environmental engineering. The project will develop, construct, test, and optimize a biocatalyst platform technology that can consolidate the treatment of difficult water quality situations safely and effectively, thereby protecting public health and promoting environmental sustainability. The major outcome of this work will be a proof-of-concept of a novel high performance biocatalytic process for the cometabolic treatment of major contaminants in water. The value proposition of this method includes intensified, targeted performance while limiting waste and reducing capital and operating expenses. Compared with existing methods, the successful outcome of this project has the potential to be a commercial technology-of-choice for water managers and providers, allowing the cost-effective remediation of water supplies and securing significant value for public and private environmental stewardship for future generations.

Public Health Relevance

Hundreds of recalcitrant organic water pollutants continue to impact water supplies and human health across the United States. Due to their recalcitrance, many of these compounds are prohibitively expensive to mitigate using existing technologies. This proposal offers a multidisciplinary approach for the development of a new platform technology capable of degrading recalcitrant organics to safe regulatory levels.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
Small Business Innovation Research Grants (SBIR) - Phase I (R43)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-IMST-M (13))
Program Officer
Henry, Heather F
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Microvi Biotech, Inc.
United States
Zip Code