Benefits of revolutionary wastewater treatment explained

Louise Smyth

New technology developed in the USA that could revolutionise the way the world’s wastewater can be processed is being tested by experts at Scottish Water.

A six month trial of Microvi’s MicroNiche Engineering (MNE) technology is taking place at Scottish Water’s Waste Water Development Centre at Bo’ness. The technology uses specific bacteria that eat pollutants in the wastewater. It creates an environment for these bacteria known as biocatalysts – to make them work more efficiently.

Good Bacteria v Bad Bactereia

It is designed to intensify the population of the bacteria, which are put in a special capsule to encourage them to work much faster. The process is designed to speed up the rate at which the good bacteria out-compete the bad bacteria.

Sludge Reduction

The technology was also developed to drastically reduce the amount of sludge - the residual, semi-solid material produced as a by-product during sewage treatment - created in the water treatment process. This happens due to the biocatalyst creating an environment where bacteria reproduction is limited.

Reducing the amount of sludge produced cuts the energy requirements to manage bio-solids and requires less space for the treatment process. This can save not only energy but also time and costs. It means using fewer chemicals in the treatment process too.  In previous testing in the USA the sludge produced using Microvi was shown to be only a around a tenth of typical levels. The trial at Bo’ness will test the limits and conditions in which the biocatalysts can operate and see if this technique has the potential to transform how wastewater is treated.

Trial Period

George Ponton, head of Research and Innovation at Scottish Water, said: “We are excited to see the outcome of the trials of this potentially innovative wastewater process. If this process works it would transform the way wastewater is treated.

“To meet the future demand of an ever-growing population it is essential that we find ways to increase the capacity and efficiency of our existing assets. Microvi offers the potential to meet growth requirements faster and at lower cost than many current conventional plant extensions.”

Microvi’s technology was designed and developed in the USA and is already used in parts of North America and Australia.

The team at the centre will carry out rigorous testing of the new process, after which Scottish Water will look at the findings to determine if the process would be useful and cost effective at any of Scotland’s wastewater treatment plants.

Dr Fatemeh Shirazi, CEO and CTO of California-based Microvi, said: “We are delighted to work closely with Scottish Water at its pioneering test and development centre. As we have seen at other demonstration projects in the UK, the Microvi MNE technology is positioned to deliver a paradigm shift in the way we treat wastewater while protecting health and preserving the environment.

“It is an exciting time for the industry as we find new ways to respond to new challenges in an ever-expanding world.”

The test centre, the only facility of its kind in the UK, is situated next to Bo’ness Waste Water Treatment Works, making it a unique and dynamic research hub for wastewater technologies. Users can test new processes, technologies and equipment under live conditions in a safe and operational scale environment to enhance the marketability of their products without risk to Scottish Water operations.

The centre provides three individual feeds of wastewater from different stages in the treatment process. All discharges from testing areas enter back into the normal treatment process, offering a flexible and low-risk testing environment.  There is also the provision for testing of new screening innovations at the inlet to the Treatment Works.
Operated by the utility’s commercial subsidiary, Scottish Water Horizons, users can also benefit from UKAS accredited sampling and analysis services.

Recent Issues