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Communities consume large amounts of water, leading to higher water demands but also increased wastewater production. This creates an urgent need to be more strategic and thoughtful about water use, and rethink the way we treat wastewater.
*80 percent of wastewater generated by society flows back into the ecosystem without being treated or reused, and 1.8 billion people drink water contaminated with faeces, putting them at risk of contracting cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio. (*Source: www.unwater.org/water-facts/quality-and-wastewater )
Water and wastewater treatment plants must become more efficient and innovative, improve processes and maximise output use by recovering energy and nutrients, recuperating organic matter and producing clean, reusable water – instead of simply regarding it as waste.
These plants are also becoming multifunctional, providing an integrated treatment approach that not only cleans wastewater but also recovers its resources.
Water is a fragile resource that needs to be protected at all costs. There is a global imperative for every nation, regardless of its available water, to contribute to smarter, more effective water treatment. This means operators in industries that rely heavily on water, such as agriculture and food production, need to be proactive in their approach to water management.
The challenge for innovative water treatment systems is the need to restructure the water industry to effectively deploy and implement innovations. Public utilities that operate water and wastewater treatment systems need to become more cost-effective in meeting changes in demand and upgrading water quality while increasing the robustness of the system as a whole. These challenges create opportunities for innovative solutions that can improve public health and safety and protect natural ecosystems, while improving economic efficiency and overall system performance.
IER’s solutions for Improving the sustainability of water treatment can be a major driver of sustainability on a global scale and therefore an important step in reaching the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Fertiliser that contains nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and potassium (K) is known as NPK fertiliser and it’s one of the most valuable resources in the world when it comes to agricultural production. The world’s farmers have relied on phosphorous to grow food for centuries but phosphate reserves are dwindling and experts believe that peak phosphate, which is the catastrophic decline in output of phosphate, could have a bigger impact on food supplies than even climate change.
While phosphate occurs naturally in numerous sources, including manure, farmers have relied on phosphate rock for fertiliser since the mid-1900s.
Phosphate mine deposits are expected to be depleted within a few centuries, creating a predicament for the agriculture industry, requiring it to manage the amount of phosphate that makes it into fresh water while preserving phosphate supplies for use as fertiliser.
“In the mid-1800s, food shortages due to farmland nutrient depletion became a major problem. But, thanks to native Peruvians, NPK fertiliser came to the rescue and became one of the most valuable resources in the world.”
Calix business development manager, Michael Wheatland.
“Magnesium hydroxide has been known as one of the preferred methods for pH and alkalinity control within municipal waste water treatment processes for decades. Its benefits include improving digestion output from anaerobic digestors.”
Calix business development manager, Michael Wheatland.
Phosphate mining has made phosphate both plentiful and cheap in the past, which meant that thousands of tonnes were dropped on farmland every year.
This resulted in massive amounts of phosphate in wastewater and runoff from farms, which washes downriver and results in algal blooms. This can be disastrous as the algae die off and decompose, dropping oxygen levels to a point where fish and other aquatic life die in massive numbers.
The intensity of harmful algal blooms has increased over the past three decades, creating a worrying situation for many waterways. It can even potentially threaten drinking water, as was feared during the Australian bushfire emergency in late 2019* (*source: https://www.waterquality.gov.au/issues/bushfires).
Modern regulation already limits the amount of soluble phosphate that can enter rivers. This is usually managed by locking phosphate up in insoluble salts that end up at the bottom of the ocean, never to return. While it safely neutralises phosphate in rivers, this approach also means that the phosphate can’t be reused.
Although it isn’t possible to create or synthesise phosphorus, it is possible to recover useable phosphorus from waste streams, including urban and industrial wastewater.
Sewage treatment plants can remove biological phosphorous to create a sludge that is high in phosphorous. Adding magnesium to the waste can help make and extract struvite, which is a phosphorous-rich material.
By capturing phosphorous in a biologically-available form within wastewater sludge, it can be composted and recycled as fertiliser, preserving nutrients in the land to ensure farming remains efficient for many more generations. This approach recycles phosphate back into the environment safely. Importantly, it guarantees the ongoing availability of this essential fertiliser.
While many organisations have tried and failed to create a cost-effective technology to recover phosphate from wastewater, IER has succeeded. IER’s AMALGAM makes it possible to rapidly capture phosphate within the solid waste stream while removing the need for other harsh chemicals and the associated additional pH adjustment required.
Magnesium Hydroxide is a solution to key water-based environmental challenges. When used in wastewater treatment, Magnesium Hydroxide significantly boosts the conversion of organic waste into biogas, which can then be used to offset carbon-intensive energy production methods. It helps reduce odour and improve the quality of water while having a real and meaningful impact on climate change.
AMALGAM Magnesium Hydroxide provides excellent neutralisation speed and produces less sludge, making it a much more stable product, which stays as a suspension longer compared to other Magnesium Hydroxide slurries.
IER is also able to offer better service, reliability and performance to its customers bringing 100 years of combined expertise and knowledge. Based in Spokane, Washington, IER primarily services the Paciﬁc Northwest and Upper Midwest with plant locations in Sioux City, Iowa; Hills, Iowa; Centralia, Washington and Pasco, Washington. The ability to hydrate our high surface area MgO in our patented, close-to customer facilities creates multiple benefits for our customers and local communities.
As a concentrated, stabilised suspension of magnesium hydroxide, AMALGAM has a higher neutralising value per dry kilogram when compared with caustic and lime, and is significantly safer than other traditional alkalis. It’s also a very cost-competitive option for hydrogen sulphide gas control in sewers and industrial waste treatment, which means it can help reduce unpleasant odours. It can also efficiently remove phosphorous and nitrogen from wastewater. This makes it the ideal solution for sustainable wastewater treatment.
Sodium degrades the quality of soil, making it harder to grow healthy plants. It interferes with water’s ability to infiltrate the soil and seedlings’ ability to break through the surface. Farmers using water to irrigate their fields may inadvertently be adding excess sodium through the water source.
Many food manufacturing facilities use sodium hydroxide (*caustic soda” or “caustic”) to “clean in place” or flush their systems between food processing runs. This results in large amounts of wastewater with very high sodium levels requiring treatment before discharge.
Replacing caustic with AMALGAM, a natural mineral product, significantly lowers the sodium content in wastewater. This has an exceptionally positive impact on wastewater facilities and treatment plants downstream from the food factory.
Michael Wheatland explains how to improve the sustainability of wastewater treatment using Magnesium Hydroxide.
At Calix, we make a point of highlighting the challenges we want to solve. Phil Hogdson, CEO at Calix Limited, explains how to improve sustainability of wastewater treatment using Magnesium Hydroxide.
Michael Wheatland, Calix business development manager said:
“With growing concern about the impact of industry and agriculture on Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions and the environment in general, biogas is swiftly emerging as the most attractive, affordable, and logical waste management solution available”.
Audrey Barucchi, Calix marketing manager said:
“Calix ACTI-Mag helps make an anaerobic biogas plant work much more efficiently, which reduces groundwater pollution, generates potentially re-usable industrial water, and also delivers a financial return on investment through sustainable power production”.
Traditional wastewater treatment plants aren’t necessarily optimized for the production of biogas from wastewater sludge. Biogas is created through anaerobic digestion, which requires the material to have the right pH levels so bacteria can break down the microorganisms in the wastewater stream. During this process, methane and carbon dioxide are created.
If the pH gets too low, significant amounts of hydrogen sulphide or “rotten egg gas” is released to the air, creating unbearable and toxic levels of contamination evidenced by a strong odor. When too much hydrogen sulphide is created, it can reduce the lifespan of the plant’s equipment because it becomes corrosive when it’s converted into sulphuric acid. Adding an alkali reduces production of hydrogen sulphide and maintains optimum bacterial growth conditions for anaerobic digestion.
Anaerobic treatment with biogas production is also a realistic solution for industrial sites and farms with concentrated wastewater management issues aiming to work sustainability philosophies into their wastewater management strategies. Treating wastewater with anaerobic processes to produce biogas energy can significantly reduce pollution, and help industries recycle water and cut costs that would otherwise go towards electricity and energy demands. Increasingly, industrial sites are investing in on-site anaerobic cogeneration plants to treat wastewater.
For example, a rendering plant that processes four million kilograms of animal waste per week was consuming more than $130,000 worth of electricity per month, the equivalent of burning 24,000 tonnes of black coal per year. Before working with Calix – our parent company – the plant sourced half of its energy from a coal-powered generator and the other half from biogas.
Using Magnesium Hydroxide to improve its biogas production helped the plant save more than $1.5 million in energy costs.
Our parent company – Calix – has also worked with a South-West Victorian piggery to reduce hydrogen sulphide from pig waste biogas and to improve biogas production. The piggery increased biogas volume by 20 per cent and power generation by 23.5 per cent. It decreased the average daily effluent soluble phosphate levels by almost 40 per cent and hydrogen sulphide by 70 per cent, significantly reducing the unpleasant odor.
Importantly, the piggery was able to achieve an increase in earnings of $68,000 per year from increased power generation due to the improved treatment of its wastewater.
Biogas is a viable alternative to traditional waste management approaches. It’s a clean, renewable energy that’s created from materials that would otherwise simply be wasted. It can reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of energy by over 20 times and prevents methane from escaping, directly into the atmosphere. Creating energy through biogas is considered carbon neutral, so it’s a genuine solution to excess emissions.
Almost 2 billion people do not have a decent toilet or access to basic and safely managed sanitation. In many cases, faeces and urine end up untreated in the environment, contaminating it and threatening people’s health.
This is why IER supports WaterAid programs, to facilitate access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene in the world’s poorest and most marginalised communities.