Australian sewerage system wins global award
The Biolytix Wastewater Treatment (WWT) System recently won a Global Environmental Technology Award at the World Expo in Japan. Jenny Allen of Biolytix explains how this highly compact biological system, claimed to be the most environmentally friendly in the world, was developed.
Most WWT systems are aquatic based and generally rely on operator attendance or automatic monitoring systems to control aeration, sludge recycle and wasting rates. These systems are highly reliant on mechanical systems to guarantee effluent quality and are therefore prone to occasional poor quality effluent, particularly on-site treatment systems that normally do not have regular operator assistance.
Twelve years ago, environmental scientist Dean Cameron set out to design a system that was far more reliable, efficient and cost-effective. Dean looked to ecosystems for the answer. While other scientists were studying oxygen diffusion into wastewater in their laboratories, Dean was out in the paddock getting dirty, reflecting on the breakdown of dead cows and cowpats.
He observed the succession of organisms that moved in to break up various decomposing materials – and quickly found sponge-like patterns in the architecture of decomposition. He also studied the breakdown of forest litter
in rivers and observed that the fastest breakdown did not occur in the water, as most engineers have assumed for well over a century, but was occurring on the waterline, where the organic matter was moist but surrounded by air not water.
From these observations he knew intuitively that conventional sewage treatment that retains solid waste in the liquid phase, to be either artificially pumped with air, like aerated systems, or left to decompose anaerobically, like a septic, was not based on optimal treatment conditions. Rather, the waste should be removed as fast as possible from the water and stocked with worms, beetles and other soil invertebrates, not just microorganisms.
Cameron concluded that organic matter should be allowed to break down rapidly and aerobically in a moist, organic, soil-like environment, created by burrowing invertebrates vital to this natural “biolytic” ecosystem. He invented the Biolytix Waste Treatment System, which immediately separates the solids from
the water using a structured humus bed.
Biolytix has the patent to use the structured waste and resultant humus as the filter to cleanse the wastewater. This cleverly turns the problem (the waste) into the solution (the filter to cleanse the wastewater.)
With the help of the Co-operative Research Centre, GHD engineers and Murdoch and Queensland Universities, Biolytix has produced a world first in-household and commercial WWT. After spending a further $3 million in research and development they got the outcome they were hoping for: the Biolytix system achieved the best results in the world for the most compact biological system and is also the most greenhouse friendly system in the world.
This simple and robust system uses less than uses 0.140kWh/m3, less than one-tenth of the energy to operate a conventional aerated treatment system. Low energy usage and low on-going costs. It also guarantees no odour because the filtration medium is humus, an excellent odour absorbent.
The simplicity and efficiency of the Biolytix® Wastewater Treatment system also provides a breakthrough in how we treat our sewage on a much larger scale for developments and towns. Biowater is a neighbourhood network of the Biolytix® Wastewater Treatment Systems.
Biowater networks turn wastewater into advanced effluent at source. The systems are connected by a shallow network of small-diameter pressurised pipes, not dissimilar to a pressure sewerage scheme, so any surplus treated effluent can automatically be transferred to irrigate public parks, sports fields, golf courses, horticulture and road verges.
This means that the water and nutrients that are normally a “problem” for centralised sewerage become a valuable resource, creating green spaces for the community, with no health or environmental risks.
“Just as the powerful PC made large mainframe computers redundant, Biowater will make centralised sewerage a museum piece,” says inventor Dean Cameron.
A network of on-site Biolytix WWT Systems can be sized to treat sewage, sanitary items and food waste. The filter elements can also be installed into existing sound septic or pump-out tanks in a town, thereby upgrading a whole town with little disruption.
The network also includes network for water reuse. A lay-of-the-land, small diameter, reticulation network, which can be a one- way or two-way pressurized link, takes excess irrigation water during wet weather to a tertiary treatment/storage system at the hub of the network. When soil moisture levels drop, the water can automatically go back to the dispersed irrigation areas where it is needed.
An Independent Feasibility Report done by International Engineering Firm GHD says, “Biowater® offers between 30-50% savings over conventional systems in normal terrain and ground conditions. The savings would be greater in more difficult terrain or ground conditions.”