Phosphorous and nitrogen pollution reduces oxygen levels in rivers and lakes, leading to eutrophication. Phosphorous is widely used in agricultural fertilisers, detergents, household cleaning products and industrial processes. As a result, the incorporation of phosphorus in water bodies has increased significantly in recent years.
Urban wastewater typically contains phosphorous concentrations of 10-30 mg/l. Tertiary treatment is often necessary to reduce these concentrations below legal thresholds. Further efforts are needed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of methods to remove phosphorous from wastewater before discharge into the environment.
The LIFE NEWEST project would demonstrate a cost effective new wastewater treatment technology at industrial scale. Sludge from the process would be shown to be suitable for agricultural use.
The project’s specific objectives were:
- Replacement of inorganic coagulants (which have corrosive and hazardous properties) in wastewater treatment with new natural-based products developed and manufactured by the project;
- Design and construction of an industrial-scale production plant which will be demonstrated at two urban and two industrial wastewater treatment plants in Spain, Germany and the Netherlands;
- Development of a business plan for market introduction of the new coagulants; and
- Evaluation of the use of the generated sludge in biomethanation and agricultural applications.
The project results would support implementation of the EU’s Water Framework Directive and Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive as well as contributing to the accomplishment of the Directive on environmental quality in the field of water policy that establishes limits for the discharge of priority substances and other chemical contaminants into water bodies.
Technology replication and transferability would be based on industrial-scale implementation in wastewater treatment facilities of three Member States: Spain, Germany and the Netherlands. The project would also apply a business plan, ensuring the marketing of the coagulants used in the process. Sales of €80 000-€120 000 were forecast by the end of the project.
LIFE NEWEST achieved its two main objectives, of i) demonstrating at an industrial scale an innovative and environmentally-friendly technology for phosphorous removal in urban and industrial wastewater treatment plants (WWTP); and ii) demonstrating the valorisation of the generated sludge for use in agriculture.
The project’s technological process is based on a new natural-based organic polymer, which is capable of improving coagulant efficiency and replacing currently-used hazardous chemicals in tertiary treatments in WWTPs. Trials with the project’s coagulants showed overall satisfactory results from the technical perspective. From the economic side, although the project's coagulants were not competitive with the ferric chloride (FeCl3) used in the WWTP in which the project was implemented (urban wastewater), they seem to be more appropriate for other industrial contexts.
During the project, the beneficiaries produced 397 tons of the blending product (BEWAT NW3) and 57 tons of the original synthesized product (BEWAT MA), which was used for the project trials.
Furthermore, the agronomic trials with the generated composts showed that there are no significant differences between the composts produced with the project coagulants and with ferric chloride.
The business plan includes a promising scenario for the commercialisation of the project solution and in fact, the coordinating beneficiary has already started selling the project coagulants to some companies in different industrial sectors. Therefore, the project’s solution is being replicated, and transferred to other industrial sectors. The continuation of the project’s approach is assured, as the pilot plants continue to be used to produce the natural-based coagulants.
Further information on the project can be found in the project's Layman report (see "Read more" section).