A technology that allows a more efficient wastewater management, with positive impact in the wellbeing of the environment and the population was developed by Fundación Chile along with Manantial S.A. and funded by InnovaCorfo.
The initiative, called LA+ Project, sbuild on the conventional activated sludge process, which is the secondary most used method for wastewater treatment, both for residential and industrial use. This process generates what is known as “blowdown”, which are wastes high in organic material that must be transported to landfills, incinerated, or used as fertilizer. This process generates high costs both environmental – for high concentrations of heavy metals, vectors, and bad smells- and economic. In fact, according to sanitary companies’ data, final disposal of waste is responsible for 60% of total cost of waste water treatment.
The LA+ Project decreases vector threat that may affect people, reduces waste generation, allows less use of land for conditioning and disposal of sludge, and reduces CO2 emissions to the atmosphere from waste transportation and fuel use.
The LA+ Project reduces blowdown production without affecting water treatment, which is more efficient that treating already generated sludge. Given of the incorporation of an oxidation process to the conventional system of waste water treatment, waste reductions up to 50% have been observed, with the consequent impact on the reduction of health risks.
“This technology has many benefits. The LA+ Project has demonstrated it is environmentally friendly, because it decreases risk of vectors that may affect people; reduces waste generation, allows less use of land for conditioning and disposal of sludge, and reduces the CO2 emissions to the atmosphere from waste transportation and fuel use”, says Cecilia Vidal, Fundación Chile’s Head of Hydric Resource Projects. The specialist adds that, it also reduces the risk of groundwater infiltration, avoiding contamination of an important water source for the population.
Economic impacts of this new technology are more than promising: only in 2011, transport and final disposal costs surrounded US$ 1, 15 million a month. With this new technology, the plants that work with activated sludge system could save around 50% – 60% of their treatment costs. This is significant, especially considering that in Chile almost 60% of wastewater treatment is activated sludge. Currently other uses of the technology are being explored, like the possibility of recovering quality water destined to irrigation in rural areas.