The Protection of the Natural Aquatic Heritage from Wastewater Discharges in Northern Ireland in Line with UN Sustainability Goals

   Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment

  Dr Svetlana Tretsiakova-McNally, Dr Brian Solan, Dr P Fernandez-Ibanez  Monday, February 26, 2024  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Recently, Northern Ireland (NI) faced multiple and lengthy beach and river closures across the province due to blue-green algae issues. The contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) are likely contributors to the eutrophication manifested in local surface waters. Thus, there is an urgent need to develop sustainable and simple means for the removal of CECs and water pathogens. The aim of the current project is to apply the sustainable and cost-effective adsorbent(s) produced from timber waste, having identified and quantified existing antibiotics, antimicrobial resistant bacteria, and other microbial indicators of pathogens, to remove these from treated wastewater discharges from local sites in Northern Ireland. Allowance must be made for seasonal flooding (i.e., dilution) and the extreme case of drought (i.e., concentration), and low flow conditions which would be the worst-case scenario. In effect, we are allowing for the current ongoing climate change emergency, which has big implications for the natural aquatic environment. The bio-based ligno-cellulosic adsorbent, already prepared and available in our laboratories, will be tested to assess its effectiveness at removal of the identified contaminants. This research will also investigate the feasibility of further refining the timber waste containing ligno-cellulose fibres into a novel value-added product for wastewater treatment systems capable of dealing with antimicrobial pollutants both locally and, potentially, overseas.

​The successful candidate will work in a multi-disciplinary research team on areas related to civil engineering, chemical and microbiological pollutants, wastewater treatment methods, water purification technologies.

​The supervisors have all necessary and complementary expertise and have published widely in international journals and conferences in the areas of water chemistry and water purification. The supervisors also collaborate widely with universities, research institutions and industry, both nationally and internationally. ​

The successful candidate is expected to have an undergraduate or master’s degree in Civil Engineering, Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Engineering or a related discipline.  Minimum degree level, high 2.1 (Hons) preferably 1st Class (Hons).  

​ ​He/she will have the opportunity to collaborate with national and international groups through research projects in which the supervisors are involved. The PhD researcher will avail of laboratories/experimental facilities within the Faculty and the School and a range of links with relevant industry and international research partners.

Architecture, Building & Planning (3) Engineering (12) Environmental Sciences (13)


1] Tell, J. et al. (2019). Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management, Vol. 15, pp. 312-319.
​[2] ITV News. (2023). Available at: (Accessed on 14/09/2023).
​[3] Rapp-Wright, H., Regan, F., White, B., and Barron, L.P. (2023) Science of the Total Environment, Vol. 860, 160379,
​[4]The EU’s Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive – an overview. (2022) Available at:,of%20microplastics%20and%20health%20parameters. (Accessed on 07/11/2023).
​[5] Delmond, B. et al. (2023)., Water, Air, & Soil Pollution, Vol. 234, no. 2, 81, pp. 1-17.
​[6] Tretsiakova-McNally, S. et al. (2019). 13th European Waste Water Management Conference. 16–17 July 2019, Birmingham, UK.
​[7] National Environmental Improvement Plan (2023). Available at: (Accessed on 07/11/2023).
​[8] The Net Zero 2030 Routemap. Available at: (Accessed on 07/11/2023).
​[9] Moreira, N.F.F. et al. (2018). Water Research, Vol. 135, pp. 195-206.
​[10] The Rivers Trust. (2023). Available at: (Accessed on 14/09/2023).
​[11] Liguori, K et al. (2022). Environmental Science & Technology, Vol.56(13), pp. 9149–9160.
​[12] EUCAST (2017). EUCAST guidelines for detection of resistance mechanisms and specific resistances of clinical and/or epidemiological importance, version 2​