Tag Archives: Sewage treatment

Canada water and wastewater systems dilemma

The following article, “Balancing Act – How PC3s may help Canada’s water and wastewater systems given the dilemma faced by municipalities”, by David Caplan, was posted to ReNew Canada on September 3, 2014

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IMAGE2Properly maintained water and wastewater systems underpin our quality of life. Most Canadians are unaware of the poor condition of these systems and the risks associated with our governments’ lack of an adequate plan for long-term sustainability. If not addressed, this negligence will cause economic hardship and may also pose a threat to public health and safety and the environment.

In some municipalities, parts of water systems were built in the 19th century, with some dating back as early  and safety and the environment. as the 1870s.  In the City of Toronto, for example, DIRTY WATERhalf of the water network is at least 50 years old and almost 10 per cent is more than 100 years old. It was reported in May 2014 that 13 per cent of Toronto’s drinking water contained unsafe levels of lead due to the dilapidation of water pipes that were installed in the 1950s.

COSTLYInefficiencies in our water and wastewater systems are costly. On top of the province’s decaying municipal water and wastewater infrastructure, many drinking water distribution systems have leakage rates ranging from 10 to 50 per cent. On average, 25 per cent of every drop of water that is purified and sent through the system is lost through leakage. Municipalities spend a lot of money treating water that will never reach the end user. The impact is multiplied when you consider these systems are the top source of energy consumption for municipalities across Canada. 

CORRODED PIPEThe risks of continued inaction are troubling. Toxic lead pipes, corroded water pipes, and broken sewer pipes are a potential source 
of drinking water contamination. Broken water and wastewater PIPEpipes can contaminate rivers and lakes, making them unsafe for drinking and recreation and threatening wildlife and fish stocks. Broken watermains often cause disruptions in traffic, significant property damage, and substantial costs.

These risks are not hypothetical or worst-case scenarios, but ongoing problems that currently threaten water and wastewater systems in Canada.

FUNDING ESTIMATEThe scale of the infrastructure gap is staggering. Canada’s municipal water infrastructure deficit currently sits at more than $80 billion. Many municipal systems require significant capital investments that most simply don’t have in their annual budgets.

So how do we repair an antiquated system given the financial dilemma faced by municipalities?

With a significant need for investment to update aging infrastructure and lack of budgetary capacity in municipalities to fund it, creative solutions are needed. Although many Canadians are (rightfully) concerned about the retention of public ownership over their water and wastewater systems, solutions that marry the best of public-sector oversight with private-sector financial innovation and technical advances are required.

The question of public versus private ownership of water is divisive. Sustaining and improving water and wastewater systems while retaining public ownership of our water utilities is fundamental to protecting our drinking water and public health. The issue we have today is not with who owns what—but more so who pays for what.

MONEY TREEWith the financing gap, coupled with the concern over public ownership, how do we inject new capital into a sector that has long shuddered in fear of any private involvement?

P3SConsider the example set by the Province of Ontario. Public-private partnerships (P3s) have been used by the Ontario government to inject private capital into the public health care domain for more than a decade. The result has been remarkable. The gap that once existed between the available public funds and the investments required for new and aging hospitals has decreased dramatically. The government, alongside health-care officials, managed to balance the injection of private financing models with the sensitivity over the public ownership of hospitals and health-care facilities.

HEALTH CARE REFORMP3s proved to health-care officials and local municipalities that they would retain ownership over their health care services and transfer financial and related construction risks over to the private sector. This, in turn, protected the taxpayer and ensured that the system is maintained and kept to a higher standard than what currently exists. The utilization of the P3 model also promotes full-system cost recovery and ring-fencing, which protects consumers from financial instability and guarantees that any money generated by the system stays within it to encourage regular re-investment and renewal.

BUDGETBoth full-system recovery and ring-fencing are critical in making the P3 model work for water and wastewater projects as it will help municipalities deal with the current economic conditions that call for tight budgets and decreased spending. The injection of private financing into the system would promote technological innovation that could make Canada one of the world leaders in clean water technology.

  VICTORIAFollowing this example, Canadian municipalities need to consider adapting the P3 model to close the financing gap that currently exists in the water and wastewater sector. Municipalities like Victoria, Edmonton, and Regina are already leading the way in EDMONTONadapting the model for use in the water and wastewater sector.
These municipalities were successful in implementing the P3 model despite fears it would kick-start the privatization of public infrastructure, loosen accountability, and
begin the process of monopolizing water and wastewater entities. REGINAVictoria, Edmonton, and Regina were all able to prove that the P3 model would ensure the retention of public ownership; increase operational and financial transparency; and promote a fair, open, and efficient bidding process.

Regina consequently approved the use of the P3 model for its water and wastewater systems in September 2013, with 57 per cent of the population voting in support of a referendum on the issue. This process proved that a proper explanation and defense of the P3 model is crucial in the early stages of any project that involves a public utility—especially one as galvanizing as water and wastewater.

Those who are critical of applying the P3 model to public utilities claim the push for profit and a solid return on investment will lead to an increase in water rates, decrease in system reliability, and cuts to vulnerable users. However, properly structured and administered contracts provide protection to municipalities and ratepayers.

Putting aside the argument for P3s, it should be apparent that the water and wastewater systems need immediate attention in Ontario and Canada as a whole. Boil-water advisories, broken watermains, lead toxicity, and E. coli outbreaks will continue to occur if we do not address the antiquated water systems crumbling under our feet.

 

David Caplan is the vice-chair of Global Public Affairs.

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Canada’s First Nations’ containerized sewage treatment

THINK INSIDE BOX

Thinking Inside the Box

For Canada’s remote First Nations, smaller towns, and suburban developments, containerized sewage treatment promises plenty of benefits. Are we ready to rethink small systems?
This article was written by Julie Stauffer and appeared in Jan/Feb 2014 issue of WaterCanada magazine.
SEWAGE LAGOONAcross the country, small towns are facing the problem of sewage lagoons nearing capacity or reaching the end of their lives. On First Nation reserves in particular, more than half the wastewater systems have been classified as high or medium risk. Meanwhile, urban Canadian municipalities are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to connect new outlying developments to existing treatment plants.
TRISHAccording to Trish Johnson, a senior environmental consultant at R.V. Anderson Associates Ltd., the status quo approach to small sewage systems no longer makes sense. “We have to do
things differently,” she says.
Bullish on boxes. ECO LIBRA SYSTEM
More and more companies are betting the answer lies in packaged or containerized sewage treatment. The concept is simple. Fit your technology—complete with plumbing and electrical—into a shipping container or trailer, transport it to your site via truck or barge, hook everything up, and suddenly, you’ve got a functioning system in a matter of days at a fraction of the cost of conventional plants. As an added bonus, the effluent that comes out the other end is just as good—or better—than in traditional facilities.
ECOLIBRATake the example of EcoLibra Systems. A few years ago, this Saskatoon based company was building sewage treatment plants from scratch with all the contracting headaches and weather delays that accompany any construction project. CEO Jason Tratch then decided to package his company’s lime-based treatment technology in a standard 40-foot sea container. The resulting system serves roughly 300 people, and to scale up, the user simply adds another container.
FILTERBOXXMeanwhile, for the past 13 years, Calgary’s FilterBoxx Packaged Water Solutions Inc. has been providing water and sewage treatment in the work camps of Northern Alberta, “literally 500 miles north of nowhere,” CEO Larry Novachis says.CEO NOVACHIS
The packaged membrane bioreactor sewage treatment systems serve anywhere from 600 people to more than 5,000. Now, FilterBoxx is expanding its clientele to small communities, First Nations, resorts, and hotels. “If the camp people put their faith in a packaged approach day in and day out in –50°C, there’s no reason why a small town or an Indian reserve couldn’t either,” Novachis says.
There are dozens of other examples. Treatment containers from Canadian-owned Nomadic have seen action everywhere from fly-in fishing camps in British Columbia to mining camps in Siberia. Siemens has installed its Xpress system at Tsuu T’ina Nation’s Grey Eagle Casino in Calgary, while Quebec-based Bionest piloted their Kodiak system in the Arctic town of Iqaluit.
And whether the company uses an activated sludge process, rotating biological contractors, chemicals, or membrane technology to treat wastewater, the objectives remain the same: provide a packaged system that is effective, easy to transport, and simple to maintain.
‘It’s a slam dunk’
So how do boxed systems stack up against conventional approaches? When compared to lagoons—the go-to solution for most Canadian communities of 5,000 people or fewer—the big CCMENEWadvantage for small systems is performance. While lagoons are a well-established technology, a 2006 Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment report cites problems with odour issues and high ammonia levels in the treated discharge.
As environmental regulations get stricter, Novachis expects more towns to look for alternatives to lagoon systems. Packaged or WATERTREATMENT PLANTcontainerized systems are highly reliable, he says. They have a significantly smaller footprint than a lagoon, plus they’re enclosed, avoiding odour issues. Most importantly, they produce an effluent that can be reused for anything from washing equipment to watering golf courses. “Really, it’s a slam dunk going packaged versus lagoon,” Novachis says.
Packaged systems have advantages over bricks-and-mortar facilities, too. In remote communities where on-site construction costs can run 10 times as high as urban areas, packaged systems make financial sense. While the material costs are similar to a so-called “stick-built” system, Novachis says, the huge savings on installation cut total ownership costs between a half and two-thirds.
Tratch also points out the economies of scale created when a company manufactures standardized packages rather than constructing a custom-built facility. Packaged systems can be designed and installed much faster than the 18 to 24 months typically required to build a plant from scratch. “We can have a sea can at your door, ready to turn the key, within three to four months,” he says.
As for suburban settings, packaged systems allow municipalities to expand without the need to connect nodes of development to treatment plants dozens of kilometres away. Tratch says he’s
getting calls from developers putting in 100 or 150 houses on the outskirts of town. “This is a big new market,” he says.
And the advantages of small systems do not end there. Packaged systems don’t require specialized expertise, which is ideal for small communities where highly trained engineers and operational staff are not always available. Take the example of an EcoLibra system: “Every three to four days, someone’s going to have to go into the plant and add the green chemical to the green bin, the blue chemical to the blue bin, and then swap out the bag that was collecting the sludge,” Tratch says. Compared to more traditional systems, this process is relatively easy.
As for FilterBoxx, it has 35 certified water and wastewater professionals in Stony Plain, Alberta dedicated to running the plants it installs.
Moving forward
In a country still dominated by big pipe,
urban-focused thinking, manufacturers of packaged and containerized systems face a few hurdles. One of the biggest, according to Johnson, is policy. “Buttoned down” and “risk adverse” federal protocols require operators and backup systems that are exorbitantly expensive, she says.

And while some provinces do allow communities to manage private systems, others insist new suburban developments should be connected to existing sewage.
Then there’s the additional problem facing any new technology: unfamiliarity.
While the engineering companies that design and build municipal plants know all about bricks-and-mortar plants, plug-and-play systems are a different ballgame. “I think the next guys that need to change is the small and the large engineering firms,” Tratch says.
However, Johnson points to economic drivers, the data flowing in from pilot plants, the federal government’s willingness to look at alternatives for First Nations, and the growing number of qualified vendors as signs that attitudes are shifting. “Once we start to put out the information and the results, and the proof of the pudding is there, we’re going to see huge changes,” she predicts. WC
Julie Stauffer is an award-winning freelance writer and the owner of Cadmium Red Communications.

http://watercanada.net/2014/thinking-inside-the-box/

WASTEWATER AND THE CANADIAN ARCTIC ~ DO THEY MIX?

   BREAKING THE ICE

The following excerpts are taken from WaterCanada’s magazine article, “Breaking the Ice” – The trouble with implementing national wastewater standards in our country’s coldest climates, by Rob Jamieson and Wendy Krkosek

Managing sewage in Canada’s Arctic communities is very different than in the more populated southern regions of Canada. Arctic communities tend to have small populations of 100 to 2,000 people and many can only be accessed by air or by sea during the brief summer season. The cold climate and permafrost conditions generally prevent the use of underground pipes for transporting sewage from homes and buildings to a centralized sewage treatment plant. Therefore, people living in the Arctic often have to rely on a trucked system for water delivery and wastewater collection. Homes and other buildings are often equipped with two tanks: one for potable water, the other for wastewater. Drinking water deliveries and wastewater collection are usually conducted around every one to two days.

[Here is a very short YouTube video featuring the Sewage Lagoon and Windmills at Hooper Bay, Alaska, uploaded on Mar 18, 2010 ~ Temps +8F and 15 kt wind. 360 deg panorama of sewage lagoon and windmills, cemetery, and parts of Old Town.]

BREAKING THE ICE15In the majority of communities in the Canadian Arctic, the collected sewage is then transported to lagoons (or waste stabilization ponds) located on the outskirts of town. The lagoons are typically designed to hold a full year’s worth of sewage and are frozen for approximately nine months of the year. The lagoon contents thaw during the short summer season, which is approximately two to three months long. At the end of the summer, around early September, the water in the lagoon is pumped out into a natural tundra wetland, or directly into a lake, a river, or the ocean… The main advantages of these types of systems, and the reasons why they are used in small Arctic communities, are they are simple to operate and maintain, do not require energy inputs, and do not use mechanical equipment that would be susceptible to malfunction and failure in extreme cold climates. The problem, however, is that while these types of treatment systems have been well studied and tested in temperature climates, very little research has been conducted on how they perform in extreme arctic climates.
The impact of new regulations  Environment Canada has recently implemented new Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations (WSER). The regulations include National Performance Standards (NPS) for municipal wastewater facilities, and specific timelines for upgrading facilities based on an environmental risk assessment framework. However, Environment Canada has specifically acknowledged the challenges that remote, northern communities will face in complying with the WSER. It was recognized that little information exists on the performance of wastewater systems operating in Canada’s far north, and the risk they pose to human and environmental health (CCME, 2009). Therefore, the regulations do not immediately apply to wastewater systems located in the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and north of the 54th parallel in the provinces of Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador. A five-year grace period (ending in 2014) was provided to conduct research on northern wastewater system performance, and to propose alternative effluent quality guidelines….

BREAKING THE ICE18In response to the impending federal wastewater regulations and the need to identify cost-effective approaches for sewage management, the Government of Nunavut and Dalhousie University have developed a long-term research program focused on municipal wastewater management in Nunavut. The goals of the five-year project, currently in its third year, are to characterize the performance of existing lagoon and wetland wastewater treatment systems in Nunavut, assess the risks these systems pose to both human and environmental health, and identify and test strategies for improving the performance of passive treatment systems in Arctic climates. This work is also meant to provide the information needed to develop appropriate wastewater treatment standards for northern regions…

BREAKING THE ICE17To address this issue, Dalhousie University has collaborated with the Nunavut Research Institute to establish a water quality laboratory in Iqaluit. The lab is equipped to analyze for all primary wastewater parameters, and is also used to provide training to students enrolled in the VThe research conducted to date has produced some very interesting results. The unique summer arctic climate, where some communities receive up to 24 hours of sunlight, can have a number of advantages.

BREAKING THE ICE14CROPPEDFor example, extended daylight can stimulate a tremendous amount of algae growth in sewage treatment lagoons. These algae populations are capable of adding considerable amounts of oxygen to the lagoons through photosynthesis, which helps facilitate biological treatment processes. Trying to understand and harness the natural processes that occur within lagoons and tundra wetlands will be key to predicting and optimizing the performance of these systems.

BREAKING THE ICE16As these types of “open” treatment systems are heavily influenced by environmental factors such as ambient temperature and solar radiation, it will also be important to understand how their performance may be influenced by climate change. Initial findings also indicate that the characteristics of the water bodies which receive the treated effluent must be carefully considered in the establishment of appropriate treatment standards for the Arctic.

Interesting factoid for you all–did  you know Canada is has more kilometers in distance North-South than East-West…..

LOW FLOW TOILET – WATER SAVINGS ?

TOILET1

Bowled Over – Do low-flow toilets pose a risk to municipalities with aging water infrastructure? written by Stacy Bradshaw in the November/December issue of Water Canada magazine. 

Excerpts from the article ~

It’s easy to prove the environmental and financial benefits of low-flow toilets.  According to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), switching from a traditional toilet can reduce water usage by as 70 per cent per flush, for example. But, like any relatively new innovation, the low-flow toilet has been met with both enthusiasm and skepticism. Urban myths overheard at municipal conferences have wastewater treatment plants in rural prairie towns dealing with a flurry of rebates, installations, decreased flow, and backlogs of slow-moving sewage. While experts say the possibility of system failure due to low flows is farfetched, the slow introduction of the low flow toilet does prompt a valid question: What happens when new technology meets municipal wastewater infrastructure that is designed to accommodate the older, high-volume models? Start with the standards. Not all toilets are built the same. With low flow, consumers have a range of choices, including volume (6, 4.8, or 3-litres). To help consumers make informed purchasing decisions, CMHC, the Canadian Water and Wastewater Association (CWWA ), and other housing and municipal partners across Canada and the United States developed the Maximum Performance Testing Program (MaP), a test that uses soybean paste and toilet paper to mimic the real-world demands put upon toilets…  “In Canada you can now buy a toilet with a MaP-certified or WaterSense logo, or both,” says Cate Soroczan, a senior researcher at CMHC, who warns consumers against any non-accredited models… Does lower flow affect infrastructure? Once flushed water enters the system, supplemental flows have the capacity to clear out the lines, says Kevin Reilly, demand  management coordinator and deputy sewage control manager for the Capital Regional District (CRD) in British Columbia. Reilly is also the chair of CWWA ’s water efficiency committee. “Yes, you’re putting less water through the system [with low-flow toilets], but you have lots of residual flow that’s not carrying waste, like showers, dishwashers, and clothes washing machines. I don’t really see any issue with the city  infrastructure,” said Hennessy… When asked about the potential effects on septic systems, Soroczan explains that if you want to expand the longevity of a septic system, you actually want to pump less water through the system. “As far as septic systems go, I think a low-flow toilet will actually benefit them,” said Reilly. The commercial factor However, one good toilet choice may not a happy municipal system make. In February 2012, MaP issued a release stating that until further studies of drain systems in larger buildings are completed, it recommends taking caution in the use of toilets with an effective flush volume of 4.8 litres or less in “non-residential-type” installations, such as factories, schools, and warehouses. Reilly explains that the residential plumbing standards are smaller, and have a steeper pitch, which means they drain faster than a commercial application.  “So really, the big issue is the slope, as well as the pipe diameter,” he says… “Just look at Toronto. They even stopped the rebate program for low flow toilets last year because so many people have already have done it,” says Hennessy. “If the problem was going to rear its head, it would have already happened.”

Link for information on low flow toilets ~ http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/article/0,,213021,00.html

WATER POLLUTION THREAT TO CHINA’S POPULATION

Metro Basin Blues

Water pollution poses a real threat to china’s northern, urban population. Could constructed wetlands help? 

The following excerpts are taken from Water Canada Magazine, September/October publication.

Around the globe, there is concern about the effects of china’s rapid economic development on the air, land, water, and energy resources, as well as the ways that the country’s complex and sometimes less-than-efficient bureaucratic system may impact environmental policy implementation. the most serious of these challenges have been linked to the country’s declining water supply, which not only suffers from considerable pollutants, but also is insufficient for the country’s massive population and rapidly growing economy.  Water pollution is rampant nationwide, while water scarcity has worsened severely in north china. the problem is not only environmental— insufficient water is already limiting industrial and agricultural output in some areas. If solutions are not found and implemented, scarcity threatens to negatively impact china’s high economic growth rate and food production.

Treating China’s wastewater: Centralized wastewater treatment systems are the prevailing solution for water pollution control in many industrialized countries. to a large degree, this approach solves the problems of sanitation very efficiently. However, at the end of 2002, the official rate of municipal wastewater treatment in china was approximately 36.5 per cent, which is far from adequate given China’s serious water pollution.  Constructed wetlands (CWs) for wastewater treatment have great potential for application in china. the biogeochemical cycles of wetland plants can help transform and mineralized organic matter found in wastewater.  over the last 100 years, we’ve learned how these processes work, and recognized that many could be replicated with CWs. they’re now viewed as a viable treatment option for many different waste streams, including municipal, mining, dairy and wine-making. they’re also an attractive and stable alternative due to cost and energy savings. additionally, there are the advantages of multi-purpose reuse of the resulting high quality effluent, as well as self-remediation and self-adaptation to the surrounding conditions and environment.

Case study: Tianjin Airport Economic development Zone:  Two mega cities of china, Beijing and Tianjin, as well as the Hubei Provinces are within the region of the HaiHe river basin. the HaiHe river basin contains 10 per cent of the entire population of china, which is about 118 million people, as well as being the main source for providing fresh water to Beijing and Tianjin (Domagalski et al., 2001). this basin is facing a decrease in water levels during low precipitation leading to drought and water shortage during the dry season. It also faces serious contamination problem—the annual amount of wastewater discharged into the rivers is about four billion megagrams, and is also a major contributor to pollutant loadings in the nearby Bohai sea (Domagalski et al., 2001).

Located southeast of Beijing, Tianjin is the sixth-largest city in China (greater metropolitan population of 13,000,000). considered the economic hub of Tianjin, the Binhai new area is a new zone designated to host a number of key industrial zones, waterfront development areas, and commercial and residential properties, for nearly two million people. the region is a representation of china’s objective to modernize its coastal cities while promoting economic development.

Due to the severe impacts of urban development on water quality in Binhai new area, Tianjin, and the HaiHe river basin, the proposed solution is the implementation of two CWs at TaedZ. In collaboration with Tianjin University (TJU), Lindsay, Ontario’s Centre For Alternative Wastewater treatment at Fleming college (CAWT), Queen’s University in Kingston, and aqua treatment technologies, this location has been selected as a demonstration site for wetlands technology in a rapidly developing urban area, to address the issues of surface water degradation… China’s diverse climate and sources of wastewater allow for unique research conditions and a variety of parameters to be addressed simultaneously that would not be possible in another location.  In addition, China’s economic growth conditions add to the innovative nature of the project, and allow for new developments while taking into consideration social issues. after extensive applications in similar geographic and climatic regions in Canada such as the prairie region and southwestern Ontario, the technology may eventually benefit Canadian communities as well. 

Annie Chouinard is a graduate student in the department of civil engineering at Queen’s University.  She is conducting research in China at TJU.