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WATER + WASTEWATER TREATMENT
T he Floating Wetland Trial at the Forest Hill Sewage
Treatment Plant in the Lockyer Valley works to purify
sewage in a simple, yet natural way. Plants are grown
on the plastic mattresses, which have been specially created
to remain buoyant on the man-made lagoons. The roots of the
plants grow through into the water (sewage), working to soak up
any ‘unwanted’ nutrients and toxins in the matter, such as carbon,
nitrogen and phosphorous, rendering it clean once again.
The process is not only a great example of treatment facilities
going green, but it also has the potential to greatly reduce the
costs of wastewater treatment. Through this small trial alone, QUU
says that its chemical and electricity use has been cut by 25 per
cent. This is a huge saving that has the potential to influence other
wastewater treatment plants.
In an effort to showcase one of its most innovative projects,
QUU has produced a short video about the trial. In it, QUU
spokesperson Mike Oakley says that the plants ‘act like nature’s
kidney, and absorb all the impurities that are in the lagoon.
‘[The] benefit of this type of treatment is the low cost of energy
and chemicals, which obviously has a knock-on effect of saving
the cost to our customers,’ he says.
‘After the water leaves the lagoons, it goes through a final filtration
stage before we disinfect it, and discharge it into a local farmer’s
property, so he can re-use the water for irrigation on his land.’
There was, however, a hurdle that the QUU team had to overcome
– but it’s not what you would expect. Michelle Cull, another QUU
spokesperson, says, ‘It was a bit of a case of “the turtle ate my
project” – our first trial was eaten by a family of hungry, short-
necked Brisbane turtles that live in the lagoon. They snacked on
all the roots that were dangling beneath the surface, and so we
had to start all over again’.
With a few simple measures, however, the team was able to get
the trial back on track. ‘This time, the trial is going really well
because we’ve protected the roots with mesh and netting to keep
the hungry turtles away, and the good thing is, we haven’t had to
remove them from their home,’ says Cull.
Although the trial has only used three mattresses so far, Oakley
says that if the process is successful, they will look at rolling it out
at their six other treatment plants that have similar lagoons. And
from there, the treatment could also become more widespread,
with the potential for this clean and green method adopted by
other companies at other similar regional plants.
A company that has been named on BRW’s Top 10 Most
Innovative Companies List for 2015, QUU prides itself on its
award-winning projects, having also taken out the Healthy
Waterways 2015 Water Services Award. The Floating Wetland
Trial isn’t the only forward-thinking measure that the utilities
provider has implemented over the years.
Through its Innovation Program, QUU has undertaken plenty of
research and development, including forming new technologies
for use in its treatment plants. It has also set an example for the
rest of the industry with its solar-powered sewage treatment – a
move that is fitting, considering the amount of rays available in the
Sunshine State – and has saved grid power use at Scenic Rim and
Lockyer Valley facilities by 20 per cent through its installation of
550 solar panels.
Other sustainable practices can be found at its Oxley Creek and
Luggage Point Sewage Treatment Plants, where the company
is producing green power by using biosolids from the treatment
process to create biogas. This green power can provide up to
40 per cent of the electricity that is required for these treatment
plants – a great example of what can be done with wastewater.
Looking to the future, it is clear that these environmentally friendly
practices are becoming more prevalent, and more celebrated, in
wastewater treatment facilities across Australia.
AFTER THE WATER
LEAVES THE LAGOONS,
IT GOES THROUGH A
FINAL FILTRATION STAGE
BEFORE WE DISINFECT
IT, AND DISCHARGE IT
INTO A LOCAL FARMERS’
PROPERTY, SO HE CAN
RE-USE THE WATER FOR
IRRIGATION ON HIS LAND
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE,
IT IS CLEAR THAT THESE
ARE BECOMING MORE
MORE CELEBRATED, IN
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