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WATER + WASTEWATER TREATMENT
‘As a teacher, I really encourage my students to be proactive in
their exploration of the biosolids industry. Many of them come
armed with only anecdotal, quite polarised views of biosolids when
they start out on their courses, but I encourage them to take a
more balanced, scientific view on the topic. This is so important,
as it can be highly emotive and quite contentious, and is a very
complex subject with many variables and nuances.
‘Another reason for getting involved in events and reaching out to
explore the work of others is that it’s a much more efficient way of
working. Why would you want to spend precious time and research
budget on work that has already been done? Being astride of all
the work underway across Australia offers a great opportunity to
gather data and approaches from others, and to adopt the latest
technologies for monitoring and analysis.
‘I’m really excited about the calendar of biosolids events for this
year, as they offer a sphere where researchers such as myself can
come together with those who use the knowledge and technology
that we develop. They’re a melting pot of ideas, and also a lot of fun!’
The customer is always right
It’s not just engagement with peers across the industry and
academia that is critical to the sustained success and progression
of the biosolids industry; a proactive, well-considered approach
towards customers and stakeholders is also needed. Many utilities
have been making significant inroads in this area in recent years,
including Sydney Water.
‘Sydney Water has operated a biosolids program for about 20
years. It produces about 180,000 wet tonnes of biosolids annually,
and has beneficially used 100 per cent of their biosolids for more
than 10 years,’ says Sydney Water’s Dr Jean Davis.
‘Although biosolids can be meeting regulatory requirements, there
can be additional issues that may impact on end-use communities,
most commonly odour. Sydney Water’s values include putting
“customers at the heart of everything we do” and so, in line with
this, we recently revisited how we manage our biosolids, and have
now developed a new end-to-end approach.
‘We ranked our biosolids from best to poorest quality. Many
parameters were considered, such as odour potential,
transportability and general product quality. Once the biosolids
were ranked, they were then assessed against their current end-
use location. The suitability of that end-use location was evaluated
based on the site sensitivity. This took into consideration distance
to occupied dwellings and residential zones, the sentiment of the
community towards biosolids, and whether there had been any
complaints received in that community in relation to biosolids.
‘From this data, a management matrix was developed looking at
the odour potential of biosolids against the site sensitivity. Looking
at this profile, about 36 per cent of the lower odour potential
biosolids were being sent to low-sensitivity areas, and 30 per cent
of the higher odour potential biosolids were being sent to higher-
sensitivity areas. This was not a good distribution of the biosolids,
and did not provide the best outcome for our customers.
‘We were able to use this knowledge to more appropriately match
the product type with the most appropriate end-use location.
There are now also mechanisms in place to easily identify when
a product type changes, enabling us to redirect this product to its
most appropriate end use.
‘Sydney Water’s new approach to managing biosolids provides the
best outcome for our customers and the communities in which we
use biosolids to return nutrients to the land. This holistic approach
will benefit the biosolids industry as a whole by ensuring support
and acceptance of biosolids in the communities and industries
who can benefit most from this type of product.’
Power in the network
The biosolids industry is an unsung success story for the
Australian water industry. The sector is outward-facing, and is
keen to collaborate and connect in order to do more with less,
monitor and mitigate risk, and make the most of the vast potential
of this incredible resource.
Initiatives like the ANZBP have been a key catalyst of the thriving
network of biosolids professionals, and in a time when global
challenges are making their impacts profoundly felt, it could be
argued that this connectivity has never been more important.
The United Nations 2017 World Water Development Report was
released in March. Named ‘Wastewater: The Untapped Resource’,
this report highlights that there is a vast potential to use the
resources found in biosolids, such as energy and nutrients, and the
benefits remain under-exploited worldwide. Although there is still
much work to do, Australia is in a strong position, through its well-
established body of professionals keen to support one another, to
be a world leader in maximising the benefits of biosolids.
WWAP (United Nations World Water Assessment Programme).
2017. The United Nations World Water Development Report 2017:
Wastewater, The Untapped Resource. Paris, UNESCO
THE BIOSOLIDS INDUSTRY
IS AN UNSUNG SUCCESS
STORY FOR THE
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