An Ontario Consortium Will Help Test And Prove New Treatment Technologies

A consortium in southern Ontario aims to help companies test and prove wastewater treatment technologies and bring them to market faster.
An Ontario Consortium Will Help Test And Prove New Treatment Technologies
Evelyn Allen

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Manufacturers constantly develop new and improved wastewater treatment technologies. A key question is how and where to test and prove them before going to market.

Traditionally, the process includes bench scale and pilot testing, the latter phase often requiring cooperation from a municipal wastewater treatment plant. Now, the Southern Ontario Water Consortium (SOWC) and partners have developed a more effective and streamlined avenue for technology testing and demonstration.

The partnership involves the SOWC, Western University and the cities of London and Guelph. At London, an $8 million center of excellence has been created within the Greenway Wastewater Treatment Plant that enables research and testing with real-world, full-scale flows. At Guelph, a facility is outfitted to perform bench scale and pilot tests.

The concept makes it easier for companies to arrange for and complete pre-market testing and demonstration. In particular, it frees them from establishing their own partnerships with cities or utilities to establish test sites and it removes the need for permitting of tests from regulators.

Evelyn Allen, manager of industry partnership development for the SOWC, and Geordie Gauld, division manager of wastewater treatment operations with the City of London, talked about the new centers of excellence in an interview with Treatment Plant Operator.

TPO: How did this project develop?

Allen: The SOWC was officially announced in August 2011 and was supported with funding through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario and the provincial Ministry of Research and Innovation. The first two years were spent building the consortium and all the infrastructure that went along with it. During that time we engaged with our industry partners to help them get involved in the process and ensure that what we were building would fit their needs.

Now we’ve moved into an operational mode. All our facilities, including London and Guelph, were operational as of March 2014. In the operational mode, we engage with industries to help them develop and scope projects — research and development in particular — that would take place at London and Guelph and at facilities across our eight partnering universities. Across the board, we’ve built facilities that allow real demonstrations of technology.

TPO: What is the nature of the facilities SOWC has created?

Allen: The London facility is dedicated to full-scale wastewater technology demonstration and development. The site in Guelph is also for wastewater, but it’s designed for pilot or bench scale activities and so has lower flow rates. We also have mobile trailers that can accommodate ecotoxicology work. They can be placed in situ, such as downstream of a treatment plant or an area of concern. We also have facilities dedicated to technology testing and development for drinking water — membranes and advanced oxidation processes and technologies.

Another big part of what we’ve done is build real-world demonstration capability for watershed management. We have three highly instrumented sub-watersheds within the Grand River Watershed and have made them available to companies and researchers to do technology development or do research on the watersheds in new ways.

TPO: How are full-scale demonstrations run at the London treatment facility?

Gauld: In designing the facility, we picked the main treatment process flows within the plant. We have the ability to direct those flows back to the water treatment center. We can have 1 mgd worth of different process flows that can be directed back to four test bays. A client can take that total flow or a portion of it and run tests on it. The flow then gets returned to the point in the process from which it was drawn.

TPO: What is a practical example of how this kind of testing would work?

Gauld: TrojanUV, a company right here in London, has worked with us to test a new UV disinfection system. We took final effluent from the plant and ran it back to their test bay. They ran the flow through their UV system, after which it was returned to the plant. So they were able to use a real flow with concentrations as in a real plant to test their system.

TPO: What does the research section of the plant look like?

Gauld: It’s a retrofitted section of the plant that has been divided into test bays so that clients can access a bay dedicated to their own independent use. We can draw wastewater that has been screened but not degritted, primary influent or primary effluent. We can also take mixed liquor and final effluent flows back to the test bays. Those are the 1 mgd flows. If a client wants to do testing with waste activated sludge or primary sludge, they can do that, as well.

TPO: What is different at the Guelph facility?

Allen: The concept is similar in that wastewater from the plant is pumped to our test facility. Clients can access the same types of waters, but at much smaller flows, up to a maximum of 72,000 gpd. Ultimately, we could see a company come to Guelph to do pilot or bench scale testing, and then when they want to scale up moving to London for that part of the development work or demonstration.

TPO: Why is it important to have facilities like these?

Gauld: We observe that a lot of companies are trying to develop new technologies but have a hard time gaining access to the real-life flows and the concentrations they need to test them. Many municipalities are not willing to allow companies to come in for pilot testing. And some companies need larger flows — 1 mgd wouldn’t even be available at a smaller municipality.

Allen: Besides needing a utility willing to allow pilot testing, in Ontario a company would also need approval from the Ministry of Environment. That takes time and resources. At both of our facilities those approvals are already in place. So access to facilities like ours makes it much easier for companies to do their tests and demonstrations.

TPO: How did the relationship between SOWC, Western University and these two cities come about?

Allen: Western University and London have been an integral part of SOWC throughout the process. They were early supporters. London has a long history of supporting innovation, working with local companies to develop technologies. This is an opportunity to do that on a larger scale.

Gauld: London was originally trying to establish a water-technology center in another facility the city operates. So this initiative grew from that. We had the basis on an idea, and the funding from the federal and provincial governments helped it come together.

TPO: How are plant employees involved with the test facility?

Gauld: At London, the staff is involved in scoping out the flows and routing them to the test facility. They are not involved in the actual testing.

TPO: How do you see these facilities contributing to the betterment of wastewater treatment?

Allen: This provides a huge step in reducing barriers to bringing new technologies to market. The water market is quite risk-averse, and this is one more step in helping mitigate that risk for companies trying to break into the market. It’s another way for them to provide proof of concept before they get into an actual plant installation.

Gauld: Another roadblock for new technologies is getting the consultants and engineers on board, making them feel at ease. In a setup like this, consultants can come in and actually see the technologies working. Anything that helps make them more comfortable pays big dividends.

TPO: How long do these tests typically last?

Allen: The time frames vary. Some companies want to be there for three years. Others just want to test a pump and they are in for a week. Some companies have a technology that is already established and they want to use our facility as a demonstration site for their clients.

TPO: What role do the SOWC partner universities play in this process?

Allen: We’re here to help support research and development, whether through the universities or from private-sector businesses, or helping to foster the cooperation of both. Our goal is to help connect all the players in the water sector. With the involvement of Western University and our seven other university partners, we have a critical mass of academic resources available. The most likely scenario is an academic-private sector partnership where a company works with a university to develop a research or development project with a technology.

TPO: When did the first actual clients begin their testing at the SOWC facilities?

Allen: The first clients have signed their agreements and began their projects in late 2014. 


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