The water industry’s seen a clever development take place from Vancouver based company Ostara who has found a way to not only make money from sewage, but also reduce water pollution.
The new technology is capable of harvesting phosphorus and ammonia from municipal sewage treatment plants and then create fertiliser pellets from the harvest!
So what are the benefits of this new process?
The ‘Pearl’ system is able to save cities money with the sewage treatment plants running efficiently. What’s more, the likelihood of reduced pollution in the runoff from agriculture is high. In comparison to other fertiliser products, this fertiliser is much easier for plants to absorb.
Additionally, phosphorus prices have risen astronomically since 2006—there’s been a threefold increase in value due to supply shortages. This means Ostara’s clever process is placed in a key position for market opportunity.
President and CEO of Ostara Phillip Abrary commented: ‘Waste water is no longer seen as waste.’
Municipal treatment plants are now able to utilise the Ostara process if they meet their phosphorus discharge limits. Regulations on the level of phosphorus allowed in water released into the environment from a treatment plant have become quite strict. Too much phosphorus can bloom and therefore draw unnecessary oxygen levels out of the water and kill aquatic life.
A treatment plant can use microorganisms to remove phosphorus from sewage—a process known as bio-P. When the microorganisms are treated, they then become a ‘sludge cake’, which is offered to agricultural farmers as a soil amendment or incinerated, biogas and a liquid waste stream. The liquid waste stream can cause issues as it’s usually routed through the treatment facility thereby increasing wear on the pipes. Scale with a concrete consistency can build up and as a result pipe capacity to manage elements like phosphorus and ammonia can become lesser. To remove the scale cannot only be an expensive problem, but also a time consuming one. Abray continued: ‘The bugs can go out of balance.’
As a result of Ostara’s new ‘Pearl’ system, various treatment plants in the US have began to make money from wastewater. Furthermore, Ostara is looking at expanding into the industrial market with an idea that could see phosphorus harvested from facilities that process mined phosphate rock into fertiliser—Ostara would capitalise on the liquid waste.
Whether Ostara do break out into the industrial market or not, it’s clear that the way wastewater is managed could be changing. What’s also interesting is how useful sludge can be – the more you monitor and control the water process the less money needs to be spent on chemicals, transport and energy.
Take a look at our blog detailing what our sludge monitors do, here.