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  1. Environmental impacts associated with inefficient and ineffective land-based wastewater treatment have direct implications for regional governments and local communities in the Caribbean due to the links between environmental quality of coastal areas (e.g. coral reefs) and socioeconomic activities (e.g. tourism, commercial fishing, cultural heritage, recreation). In Placencia, Belize an interdisciplinary team of students and community members investigate the tradeoffs that exists amid a food-energy-water systems (FEWS) case study, in order to co-create sustainable solutions. This work partners with Fragments of Hope and EcoFriendly Solutions to take a systems approach to consider the dynamic and interrelated factors and leverage points (e.g. technological, regulatory, organizational, social, economic) related to the adoption and sustainability of wastewater innovations at cayes where coral restoration work is occurring. This technology can improve water quality issues in sensitive marine ecosystems and productively reuse water and nutrients to grow food. Results show that marketing and technical strategies contributed to incremental improvements in the system's sustainability, while changing community behaviors (i.e. reporting the correct number of users and reclaiming resources – water and nutrients – for food production), was the more significant way to influence the sustainable management of the wastewater resources and to protect the coastal environment. Themore »work is situated within the deeper context of graduate student research and training where the University of South Florida is partnering with the Caribbean Community Climate Change Center to raise up a new generation of globally competent science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) students. These students develop interdisciplinary and 21st century skills, as well as technical and methodological flexibility to address the complexity inherent in “wicked problems”. To accomplish this, the partners provide resources and training for interdisciplinary and systems-based teaching and research that results in original and impactful solutions developed alongside community members to locally and globally focused challenges.« less
  2. Twenty-five United Nations member states in the wider Caribbean region ratified the Cartagena Convention, which covers the marine environment of the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea and some parts of the Atlantic Ocean. The Land-Based Sources and Activities protocol (LBS Protocol) of that convention addresses nutrient pollution from sewage discharges, agricultural runoff and other sources. Unfortunately, most Caribbean people use conventional onsite wastewater treatment systems (OWTs), especially septic systems. These systems fail to remove nitrogen effectively, posing a challenge for near shore environments. Passive biological nitrogen removal (BNR) processes have been developed for OWTs that rely on simple packed bed bioreactors, with little energy or chemical inputs and low operations and maintenance (O&M) requirements. This paper provides a case study from Florida on the partnerships and pathways for research to develop an innovative technology, Hybrid Adsorption and Biological Treatment System (HABiTS), for nitrogen reduction in OWTs. HABiTS combine ion exchange materials and BNR to remove nitrogen from septic tank effluent and buffer transient loadings. HABiTS, employs natural zeolite material (e.g. clinoptilolite) and expanded clay in the first stage to achieve both ammonium ion exchange and nitrification. The second stage of HABiTS utilizes tire chips, elemental sulphur pellets and oystermore »shells for adsorption of nitrate as well as sulphur oxidizing denitrification. Under transient load applications, the nitrogen in excess of the biodegradation capacity during high loading events was partially retained within the ion exchange and adsorption materials and readily available later for the microorganisms during lower loading events. Results from a bench scale bioreactor study with marine wastewater, which is relevant to where seawater is used for toilet flushing, are also presented. Pilot scale tests on the OWT of an engaged stakeholder dependent on the marine environment, would contribute to broader discussions for paradigm shifts for nutrient removal from wastewater.« less