Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2013

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Industrial Engineering

First Advisor

Andrew Kusiak


The primary objective of this research is to model and optimize wastewater treatment process in a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). As the treatment process is complex, its operations pose challenges. Traditional physics-based and mathematical- models have limitations in predicting the behavior of the wastewater process and optimization of its operations.

Automated control and information technology enables continuous collection of data. The collected data contains process information allowing to predict and optimize the process.

Although the data offered by the WWTP is plentiful, it has not been fully used to extract meaningful information to improve performance of the plant. A data-driven approach is promising in identifying useful patterns and models using algorithms versed in statistics and computational intelligence. Successful data-mining applications have been reported in business, manufacturing, science, and engineering.

The focus of this research is to model and optimize the wastewater treatment process and ultimately improve efficiency of WWTPs. To maintain the effluent quality, the influent flow rate, the influent pollutants including the total suspended solids (TSS) and CBOD, are predicted in short-term and long-term to provide information to efficiently operate the treatment process. To reduce energy consumption and improve energy efficiency, the process of biogas production, activated sludge process and pumping station are modeled and optimized with evolutionary computation algorithms.

Modeling and optimization of wastewater treatment processes faces three major challenges. The first one is related to the data. As wastewater treatment includes physical, chemical, and biological processes, and instruments collecting large volumes of data. Many variables in the dataset are strongly coupled. The data is noisy, uncertain, and incomplete. Therefore, several preprocessing algorithms should be used to preprocess the data, reduce its dimensionality, and determine import variables. The second challenge is in the temporal nature of the process. Different data-mining algorithms are used to obtain accurate models. The last challenge is the optimization of the process models. As the models are usually highly nonlinear and dynamic, novel evolutionary computational algorithms are used.

This research addresses these three challenges. The major contribution of this research is in modeling and optimizing the wastewater treatment process with a data-driven approach. The process model built is then optimized with evolutionary computational algorithms to find the optimal solutions for improving process efficiency and reducing energy consumption.


data-driven approach, energy saving, optimization, prediction, wastewater treatment process


xiv, 135 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 125-135).


Copyright 2013 Xiupeng Wei