Wastewater treatment with algae
To increase the responsible use of water, a new wastewater treatment system will be designed and put into practice.
This project is developing a decentralised wastewater treatment system that requires little water, removes harmful substances and recovers valuable substances that can be reused as fertiliser. The system will be taken into operation in Boekel eco-village to study how it functions in everyday practice. The project will focus on the technical as well as the socio-ethical aspects of the design, which will be adjusted where necessary.
Removing wastewater by means of sewage systems and purifying this in wastewater treatment plants prevents infectious diseases. However, it does not prevent costly raw materials (such as nitrogen and phosphorus) and the degradation products of drugs (which we swallow or dump into toilets) from washing away into the sea. In addition, a lot of precious drinking water is flushed down toilets. This project will contribute to a solution to these problems by designing a decentralised wastewater treatment system.
This water treatment system builds on an existing technical design, which made it to the top ten of Dutch National Icons in 2016 under the caption “Poep = Goud” (poo is gold). The prototype was installed in an office building and will be adapted for use in residential buildings; this adapted version will be introduced in Boekel eco-village. The research team will conduct observations and interviews to assess how the different stakeholders use their system. Questions they will look at are: What is going well; What flaws are there in the design and are there any adverse or unwanted effects? For example: the system saves water (good), but could prove too cumbersome (bad). The micro-algae used for purification do well when it is hot (good), but heating becomes costly when it is cold (bad). Harsh detergents may be good for hygienic toilet cleaning but they kill the micro-algae in our system, which is obviously bad.
The researchers will also examine how the technology shifts responsibilities, for example from an individual (who can save water by flushing less often) to technology (the system will only use 1 litre instead of 4 to 10 litres). Or, alternatively, from technology (the current sewage system can deal with pollutants like wet-wipes) to the individual (who should not flush down wet-wipes because they block the sewage pipes).
In the analyses, the researchers will focus on a wide range of standards from the technical, medical, social and ethical to the aesthetic, as these all play a potential role in the success or failure of the technology to be designed and used. In this way they will ensure that their innovation is of practical use in everyday situations. The ambition is that their method of continuously contrasting and comparing the pros and cons of their design can also be used in developing other responsible innovations.
water, wastewater, watertreatment, micropollutants, microalgae photobioreactor, sanitary system, BoekelOfficial project title: