Technology Is Ready for Decentralized Market, Company Says

With 36 states expected to experience moderate to extreme water shortages by the year 2013, the time has come for the United States to rethink its approach to the treatment, storage, and reuse of water on a residential, industrial, and municipal level, according to Shane Keaney, president of Bord na Móna Environmental Products U.S. Inc.

“The aging United States water treatment infrastructure now requires significant investment just as water shortages are increasing in magnitude throughout the south and west of the country,” Keaney said Dec. 16. “Many of our current municipal wastewater treatment systems are large centralized works that often waste the water resource rather than reuse it and consume too much energy to move wastewater from the source to the treatment plant.”

“As this existing infrastructure deteriorates, our water shortages are increasing at an alarming rate,” he asserted. “According to the Palmer Hydrological Drought Index, 38 percent of the United States was experiencing moderate to severe levels of drought by the end of 2007.”

The combination of these developments, coupled with the advent of a new generation of proven, cost-effective water reuse treatment solutions, presents the nation with the opportunity to take a radical new approach to the issue, Keaney explained. “We believe that the time has come to reduce investment in centralized systems and start investing in a 21st Century treatment infrastructure that is developed on sustainable water reuse technologies.”

There has been a historic concern about the robustness, cost, and operational effectiveness of residential and decentralized systems, creating the need for treatment solutions that are not complex and are affordable.

Flat-plate membrane systems exhibit many of these characteristics and a new generation of membranes designed specifically for the decentralized market are becoming available that improve air scouring efficiency, eliminating the chemical dosing and back-pulsing equipment and allowing periods between recovery cleans in excess of 12 months. As the greatest portion of operating costs for decentralized systems is often associated with the provision of manpower, unattended operation through simplicity in design and introduction of remote monitoring technology will be critical to making these systems affordable.

“Many decentralized water reuse plants are located within existing neighborhoods where space is limited and aesthetics and odor control are critical. This has led to a growing demand for membrane bioreactors installed within buildings with ventilation and odor control provided,” he asserted. “While at the residential level, solutions are being developed to “save every drop of water” by combining membrane wastewater recycling with rainwater harvesting.”

Another conservation development that is going to become an important part of future treatment solutions is water mining, Keaney said. “With water mining, wastewater is extracted from the pipes that lead into centralized wastewater facilities. Once extracted, the water is treated locally for industrial and water recharge applications. All communities stand to gain from water mining, but drought-challenged areas can greatly benefit by incorporating water mining into any new system design.”

Factors that will be taken into account to assess the sustainability of water infrastructure include:

  • the quantities of concrete and steel used, promoting small footprint technologies
  • the power consumption
  • the use of recycled materials
  • the requirement for and quantity of chemicals used, which are recognized as having a significant carbon and environmental footprint

In addition to the odor concerns, Keaney pointed to the fact that volatile organic compounds are now been recognized as a leading cause of both air pollution and health issues. Innovative biofiltration solutions now exist to address both threats. In addition, states such as California have recognized the need to reduce chemical usage, highlighting the unsustainable approach of traditional chemical scrubbers.

The good thing about the challenges we face, Keaney stressed, is that the technology now exists to make viable, sustainable treatment solutions a very practical, cost-effective reality.

>The entire range of Bord na Móna water, wastewater, and odor control system solutions will soon be showcased at a new million-dollar Innovation Center being built adjacent to the Greensboro, N.C., municipal wastewater treatment facility. “This center will showcase our full range of technologies, allow for third-party verification, and enable increased research, development, and optimization of new water reuse, wastewater, and odor technologies.”

Headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, Bord na Móna is a multi-national $550-million provider of products and services in the environmental, energy, fuels, and horticulture markets.

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