Ir. Victor Servando Garcia Rea

Victor S. Garcia is a PhD candidate in the Water Management Department, in the Sanitary Engineering section. His research is focused in the anaerobic degradation of chemical wastewaters (phenol and phenolic compounds as models) under extreme conditions (high toxicity and high temperature) using membrane bioreactor systems (AnMBRs).

Victor S Garcia pursed a bachelor degree in Pharmaceutical and Biological Chemistry by the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) the biggest University in Mexico and one of the top 5 Universities of Iberoamerica. His bachelor consisted in a base of Chemistry with a final specialization in Biochemical-Microbiology, focusing finally in environmental microbiology processes for water treatment. Although his Bachelor thesis was related to immune response in Lung Cancer he used techniques like flow cytometry and cell viability analysis which are also used in for environmental microbiology.

He performed an Internship in the UNAM’s Engineer Institute working with anaerobic degradation of activated sludge, working with methanogenic and acidogenic CSTRs both under both mesophilic and thermophilic conditions.  

He obtained a MSc degree in the area of Biological Sciences focused in Environmental Biotechnology working at the Engineer and Ecology Institutes (UNAM), doing research related to the degradation of toxic inhibitory wastewater (using 4-chlorophenol as model compound) by aerobic granules in sequencing batch reactors (SBR) with an optimization strategy (ED-TOC or Event Driven-Time Optimal Control). In this work molecular biology analysis (DGGE and clone library) were performed to determine the microbial community in the aerobic granules and the shift in this community driven by the control strategy and by the 4-chlorophenol.

Victor S Garcia has been acting as a teacher since 2010 in various school levels from high-school (Chemistry, Mathematics and Biology) to Master level (Environmental Microbiology).

Finally, although he is a full-time PhD student, he likes other activities like running, play soccer and salsa dancing.  



Main Project: BioXtreme – AnMBR for wastewater treatment under extreme conditions.

PhD Project: Phenolic compounds degradation in AnMBR under mesophilic and thermophilic operation: BioXtreme-following up.

Promotor: Prof. Dr. Ir. Jules B. van Lier.

Supervisor: Dr. Ir. Henri Spanjers.

Researcher: Victor S. Garcia Rea.


Research objectives

The aim of this research is to analyze the biological degradation process of phenol, p-cresol, and resorcinol in anaerobic membrane bioreactors (AnMBR) under mesophilic conditions and the degradation of phenol under thermophilic conditions.

This PhD project is part of the BioXtreme project, which its goal is to show the potential of AnMBR technology for the treatment of chemical wastewaters under extreme conditions. So, in this PhD research the extreme conditions are: 1) high toxicity, be given by the phenolic compounds and its mixture; 2) high temperature, given by the thermophilic (48-55 °C) operation.

Especial attention will be paid to unravel the biochemical, microbiological and physicochemical processes related to the degradation of the toxic compounds under the mesophilic and the thermophilic conditions, as well as the study of the membrane performance (filterability, clogging potential, etc.).

Project outline


Water is one of the most valuable resources not only for the human society development but for all forms of life. Human population is growing and also the usage and the demand of water, while in some locations of the earth (especially in the western society and industrialized countries) there is an indiscriminate use of this resource, other countries present a shortage of water.

The industrial activity has proven to be a real concern even in regions with a good reservoir of water1, especially because of the high consumption of this resource linked to the pollution with a broad of toxic/recalcitrant compounds. Rapid industrialization has resulted in the generation of large quantity of effluents, which include the major sources of industrial wastewaters from food processing, pulp and paper, textile, chemical, pharmaceutical, petroleum tannery, and manufacturing industries2 between others.

This wastewaters present a challenge for the conventional biological treatment methods, because usually implies characteristics like high organic strength and extreme conditions3: high toxicity, high temperature, high salinity and very high or low pH values.

Is in this niche in which the Bio-Xtreme project enters, having the goal of develop thermophilic anaerobic membrane (AnMBR) treatment technology for wastewater with high concentrations of salt and aromatics, in order to solve the urgent need for sustainable and cost effective treatment of these types of wastewaters making them suitable for reuse12.

An AnMBR can be simply defined as a biological treatment process operated without oxygen and using a membrane to provide solid-liquid separation2. In an AnMBR, biomass can be effectively retained inside th e reactor providing optimal conditions for organic matter degradation without any carry-over of suspended solids (SS). By incorporating membranes to anaerobic wastewater treatment, superior effluent quality in terms of chemical oxygen demand (COD), suspended solids and pathogen counts can be achieved in comparison with conventional anaerobic processes, and a stable treatment performance can be obtained to meet stringent discharge standards11.


A series of AnMBR will be used for the experimental approach. Different sources of anaerobic biomass will be used, principally those obtained from refineries like Shell and from processes like terephthalic acid degradation. Synthetic wastewater containing phenol and/or phenolic compounds will be used as a model compound for the toxic degradation research.

The degradation of phenol without the addition of a cosubstrate will be studied in order to determine de viability of the reactor operation with phenol as a unique source of carbon and energy.

The degradation of the phenol (an probably the other two phenolic) compounds under anaerobic thermophilic conditions will be assessed as well; although, as a pioneer study in this area care should be taken due to the blockages of the operation in high temperatures.

Physicochemical studies of the biomass and of the permeate obtained from the reactor will be held regularly. Molecular biology studies will also be performed in order to unravel the microbial population involved in the degradation process of the toxics. Methagenomic studies will complement the molecular/microbiological research.         

Scientific Relevance

This study will help to understand the degradation process of chemical wastewaters in anaerobic conditions and the effect of AnMBRs in the process. Nowadays this is a quite new technology so more research is need to be done in order to assess the AnMBR like the best technology for the treatment of this kind of effluents.

Social Relevance

Every day tons of toxic wastewaters are generated and discharged (a great percentage without treating) all over the world, which is a major concern because of their environmental impact. If an adequate performance of AnMBR is achieved, a breakthrough for the chemical wastewater treatment will be delivered helping to reduce the water footprint and presenting a very viable option for closing water cycles.      


Victor Servando Garcia Rea

PhD candidate

  • Faculty of Civil Engineering and Geosciences

    Building 23

    Stevinweg 1

    2628 CN Delft


    Room: S3 02.030

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