Current Projects

NASA SBIR Contract
Developing a water purification system for space

Water is a vital and very expensive resource in space, costing $83,000 to lift a gallon of water into space. Up to 92% of the costs to sustain operations in space are for water. Our project with NASA involves development of a wastewater treatment system for use on the space station and other manned missions that will be capable of recycling 95% of wastewater into drinking water.  Pancopia is developing methods to freeze dry and rapidly reactivate organisms, while developing a novel, low-cost biological treatment process to further recycle water by reverse osmosis. The first part of this three-phase contract—feasibility—was successfully completed, with reactors reaching 95% removal rates. The second phase, a $750,000 prototyping contract, is currently underway, and was completed in May of 2018. Currently, Pancopia is undertaking simultaneous Phase II-X and Phase III research to continue the development and optimization of this water recycling technology.

NASA SBIR Team of Expert Consultants

Dr. Kevin Gilmore

Bucknell University

Dr. Kevin Gilmore is an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Bucknell. He conducts research in, among other subjects, membrane processes for separation and aeration, emissions of greenhouse gases from wastewater treatment processes, life cycle assessment (LCA) for quantification and reduction of environmental impacts, and coupling of aerobic and anaerobic ammonia-oxidizing bacteria in mixed community biofilms.

Dr. Gilmore is assisting in developing plans for sampling, monitoring, and process control, as well as assist with data analysis and interpretation, and reviewing deliverables as required.

Dr. Matias Vanotti


Dr. Matias Vanotti is a research scientist at the USDA-ARS (Agricultural Research Service) Coastal Plains Soil, Water and Plant Research Center in Florence, SC. Since 1995, Dr. Vanotti has worked on agricultural waste management at the USDA-ARS laboratory, producing 165 publications and 7 patents. His research has focused on advanced treatment processes for manure, including liquid-solid separation, nitrification/denitrification, anammox, phosphorus recovery, and nitrogen recovery.

Dr. Vanotti is providing professional oversight, especially on aspects pertaining to anammox and nitrifying bacteria, and evaluation of the final data.

Dr. Charles Bott

Hampton Roads Sanitation District

Dr. Charles Bott manages technology innovation for HRSD’s 13 wastewater treatment plants and collection system. He is also an Adjunct Professor in the Departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech and Old Dominion University. Dr. Bott specializes in the treatment of unique chemical constituents in industrial wastewater applications by both physical-chemical and biological processes. He has specific expertise in the areas of denitrification with methanol and alternative carbon sources, nitrification kinetics and evaluation of nitrification inhibition, nutrient recovery, deammonification/anammox, and biogas conditioning.

Dr. Bott is providing professional oversight for operation and troubleshooting of the reactors.

Dr. Gary Schafran

Old Dominon University

Dr. Gary Schafran is a professor at ODU and the director of the environmental engineering program. He conducts research in environmental monitoring, coagulation and organics removal, water quality modeling, water and wastewater process evaluation studies, effluent and residuals disposal, and dewatering of water treatment residuals, in addition to studies in other fields.

Dr. Schafran is assisting in developing plans for sampling, monitoring, and process control, as well as subsequent data analysis and interpretation as required.

Dr. Alina Alexeenko, Dr. Elizabeth Topp

Purdue University

Drs. Alina Alexeenko and Elizabeth Topp of Purdue University are leading experts in lyophilization. Dr. Alexeeno is an associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics, and conducts research in vacuum freeze-drying for bio/pharmaceutical manufacturing, among other things. Dr. Topp is the head of the Department of Industrial and Physical Pharmacy, and conducts research in protein stability and formulation. Together they lead the consortium on lyophilization to improve freeze-drying technology.

Dr. Alexeenko is providing oversight of the lyophilization task, and will review other portions of the project as needed.

Dr. Topp is working closely with Dr. Alexeenko on the optimization of the procedure for freeze-drying our proposed mix of organisms.

USDA SBIR Contract
Odor capping system development for swine lagoons

In pig farming, harmful ammonia emissions from swine waste lagoons often cause respiratory damage to citizens living in nearby communities as well as environmental damage to surrounding ecosystems. As swine production continues to grow in scale, the potential for health damage to those living in surrounding areas rises as well. The Environmental Defense Fund even noted that the harmful ammonia emissions from hog farms are the most significant public health threat from animal feeding operations on a regional scale. To mitigate the negative effects of this still vital economic activity, Pancopia is working with the USDA through a Phase I SBIR grant to develop a low-cost odor capping system that can effectively reduce harmful ammonia emissions by at least 25%, if not more. Pancopia also aims to add treatment abilities to these systems, not only capping, but removing ammonia.

Pancopia is working closely with the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) within the USDA, as well as the Swine Research Facility, a part of Virginia Tech’s Agricultural Research and Education Facility (VT-AREF). Work began on the project early in the fall, and will continue through the beginning of the year.

Navy Seaport-e
Providing R&D and Consulting Services to the Navy

Pancopia was awarded an IDIQ (Indefinite Delivery/ Indefinite Quantity) contract with Navy Seaport-e in June of 2016. Seaport-e is the Navy’s electronic platform for acquiring support services in 22 functional areas–in this case, for engineering. Under this contract, Pancopia will partner with top engineering firm CH2M to provide engineering expertise for the Navy as a subcontractor in various tasks, including identifying process problems and proposing solutions.

The Seaport-e contract provides Pancopia with a contracting vehicle to deliver a wide range of environmental and R&D services to the Navy. Teaming with CH2M positions Pancopia to become a provider of choice for meeting the Navy’s needs in water, wastewater, and other areas.

Subcontracting Partner: CH2M (now Jacobs Engineering)

CH2M (now a part of Jacobs Engineering) is an employee-owned, global leader in full-service engineering, procurement, construction, and operations. A US based company for public and private clients, CH2M delivers innovative, practical, sustainable solutions that help clients develop and manage infrastructure and facilities that improve efficiency, safety, and quality of life. The firm has provided high-quality, cost effective environmental and utility services to clients throughout the world since 1946.

CH2M’s Water and Environmental Business Groups are dedicated to solving their clients’ most complex water and environmental challenges with exceptional service and integrated, sustainable solutions as they provide solutions for wastewater, drinking water, industrial and pure water, conveyance and storage, water resources ecosystem management, intelligent water, permitting, remediation, integrated waste solutions, threat reduction and health security and environmental compliance. CH2M has recently become a part of Jacobs Engineering.

Portsmouth Residuals
Residual Removal from Lake Kilby

Pancopia’s contract with the City of Portsmouth involves an annual process that removes residuals from the storage lagoon of Portsmouth’s Lake Kilby Water Treatment Plant. The residuals are removed, dewatered, inspected, and then transported and applied to farmland. CH2M teams together with Pancopia to supervise this process each year. Pancopia’s staff have a long relationship with the City of Portsmouth, as two of our staff have worked on multiple projects with them in the past. Our residuals inspector, Eva Tillet, is a former plant manager for the Lake Kilby plant, and our CEO Bill Cumbie developed the current residuals management plan. They have been working together to supervise the removal of residuals since  the project’s inception in 2003.

Pancopia staff visiting the Lake Kilby storage lagoon site

Pancopia residuals inspector Eva Tillet detailing progress made to staff members John Whitelaw and Fei Dai

Staff posing with the dewatering belt press next to the storage lagoon

Norfolk Lake Aeration
Aerating lakes to improve drinking water quality

While working with CH2M in the 1990s, Pancopia founder Bill Cumbie managed a series of lake restoration projects which significantly improved the water quality of the lakes, and allowed the City of Norfolk to continue producing exceptional drinking water. The City of Norfolk’s investment of $4.5 million to install the lake aeration system improved water quality and saved significant amounts of money, permitting the City to avoid installation of a $60 million ozone/carbon facility. The project has operated successfully for more than twenty years. Pancopia partners with CH2M on this project in order to evaluate the aeration system to further optimize operation and maintenance.  Advances in aerator and compressor technology have the potential to decrease operational costs by one-quarter to one-third, while continuing to improve the quality of the lakes and Norfolk’s drinking water.