Plant nutrients beat sewage odour naturally

Plant micronutrients are providing a new chemical-free weapon against bad odours, thanks to a cutting edge method now spreading across Europe, from Spanish golf courses to British water treatment works.

Rather than destroying the micro-organisms that cause the odour with chemicals, the "bio-catalysis" method presented at the Environmental Technology exhibition this week uses plant micronutrients to naturally decompose them into odourless particles. The method can save money, as the only other solution is often to replace pipelines or enclose installations, and is completely chemical-free.

"What we are doing is essentially bio-catalysing the micro-organisms that are causing the odour into their primary chemical constituents," Karim Esmail of environmental research consultants BRE that had developed the method told edie.

"Because the method uses no chemicals at all, all the health and safety issues go away, as do environmental impacts," he said.

One example of bio-catalysis in action can be seen in the Spanish tourist resort of Port Banus, where a sewage run had been making life unpleasant for diners in seaside restaurants. The use of micro-nutrients has eliminated the sewage smell, with the additional benefit of oils and fats being decomposed, thus preventing pipeline blockages.

The only other solution in this case - enclosing the entire sewage run - would have proved much more costly, Mr Esmail said.

In other applications, enclosure is not an option at all. On Spanish golf courses, where sewage is the only water available for irrigation, micro-nutrients have solved the problem of odour emanating from ponds.

And in a large sewage treatment works in the UK, the micronutrient method has cut out odours from fisheries, food and town sewage, bringing the number of complaints from residents down from 600 to 1 per year.

As the nutrients can break down oil as well as sewage, the bio-catalysis method also has important applications in the clean-up of oil spills. Rather than removing oil-soaked soil to be landfilled, micronutrients can be applied to decompose oil into water and carbon dioxide.

For more information on applications in Spain, see the NIMASCO website.

Goska Romanowicz



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