Pilot project wastewater system now operational
Helena Long / Battlefords News-Optimist
UNITY — With the new wastewater treatment system fired up in Unity Jan. 11, Mayor Ben Weber, town council members and other town staff went to the treatment site Feb. 5 to see it in operation and to hear representatives of Soneera Water explain how the process works.
Although the original goal was to have the system operational by the end of October, weather and some manufacturing delays put off the start date. Power was also not available at the site until the end of November, rather than the originally planned end of September. Darrell Behan, Soneera CEO, is pleased, however, that they are immediately able to test the working and results of the MemFree system during the cold winter months.
Soneera is an Arizona-based company licensed to market the patented electroflocculation technology – invented by Dr. Vivian Robinson in Australia – in North America. The Unity plant is a pilot project, not only the first for Saskatchewan but all of Canada.
In a Jan. 30 Marketwire news story, Behan was quoted as saying, “It was vital to get the installation commissioned in the winter. We need to give the equipment the opportunity to run and prove itself in the Canadian winter and really test it during the pilot phase.”
With just over three weeks of tinkering with inflow, outflow and other controls at the time town representatives toured the site, Behan was extremely happy with the tests done to date. Samples of wastewater, before and after treatment, were on display in clear Mason jars and there was an obvious visual difference. Behan also pointed out a control panel which measures the lack of solid residues in the water. With the number varying between 83 and 89 per cent, he was evidently thrilled with the results, saying that, at 90 per cent, water is considered potable.
Collin Field, Unity’s public works director, pointed out afterward that “although the technology could be capable of achieving potable water standards, the end result is that it is still wastewater. In order for this water to be potable, there would have to be further treatment required [to meet] Canadian Drinking Water Guidelines, and ultimately the Sask. Water Security Agency has the final say.”
The MemFree system is not going to replace the water treatment plant; its purpose is to treat sewage.
Nevertheless, with the treated water entering a settlement pond which ultimately flows into Sink Lake, over a number of years, residents should see a marked improvement in the quality of the water in the lake. With the long-time sewage lagoons at Sink Lake, just west of Unity, the lake is not capable of sustaining fish life. Behan believes this will now change, in time.
Standing in the building housing the two continuous flow MemFree units, councillors remarked on the lack of a strong sewage smell. Weber, a former resident of Yorkton who also served as mayor there, recalled touring a new traditional wastewater treatment site opened during his tenure and said, “It still has some pretty nasty smells,” unlike the new Unity facility.
Weber and town councillors are excited about the potential of the new technology and very pleased with the positive results to date. The installation of the system was a no-brainer for the former mayor, Sylvia Maljan, and council. Coming in several million dollars cheaper than building a new sewage lagoon and faced with the need to do something due to Unity’s growing population, council took the plunge to become Soneera’s pilot project in Canada.
Because this is a pilot, other than the cost of the ground preparation and the building itself, the town will not pay anything for the equipment or technology until formal approval from the Saskatchewan Water Security Agency and the Ministry of Environment is obtained. Until that time, Soneera employees, as well as employees of Tecvalco Ltd., which manufactured the panels used in the system at their facility in North Battleford, will be responsible for running and monitoring the two units.
Behan pointed out a number of valves and pumps in the northwest corner of the building from where the treated water is piped to the settlement pond.
“We are testing everything,” he said, explaining that much of this equipment external to the units themselves would be removed once the system is turned over to the town.
Sewage and other wastewater from the town continues to run into either of the two sewage lagoons on the east side of Sink Lake. From there a pump mounted on pontoons in the lagoon draws the wastewater from approximately the middle of the lagoon – depth-wise – and takes it to one or the other of the MemFree units in the building. After the water has moved through the system, it is then pumped out into a settlement pond several hundred metres to the north of the lagoons, from where it will eventually find its way into Sink Lake.
The system has been designed with built-in redundancy. For example, there are two pumps mounted on pontoons in the sewage lagoon, but only one was being used. The other is there for backup to avoid any stoppages in treatment. Similarly, although both units inside the building were in use the day of the councillors’ visit, having two means wastewater can continue to be treated even when maintenance is being done on one of the units.
Field added that, as the Memfree system is a modular one, it can be expanded within the current building by adding another unit, “which could likely accommodate a population growth … up to around 5,000.”
The Tecvalco website says, “The MemFree water treatment system from Soneera Water is a continuous flow operation that contains no filters or membranes and is capable of treatment to nano-filtration level. The system uses no chemicals and minimal power to clean 95 per cent of all wastewater types. The system operates 24/7 without stopping or human interaction for approximately 100 days.
“The system operates by releasing ions into the wastewater, binding to the waste particulates and floating them to the surface; creating a flocculent similar to the froth on a cappuccino. The waste flocculent is removed, leaving clean recycled water, achieving a 95 per cent recovery rate.”
“ … The physical footprint of the MemFree treatment system is often one-fifth the size of a traditional treatment plant. The environmental footprint is exceptional: no chemicals, reduced power, 95 per cent waste water recovery, and minimal waste or sludge created.”
The sludge that does remain, in the case of Unity’s treatment plant, returns to the bottom of the existing lagoons.
Should the pilot project at the Town of Unity prove a success, despite cold winter weather, Field can probably expect to see a number of visitors from other communities in Saskatchewan and elsewhere checking out this new technology which promises savings in both monetary and environmental costs.
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