South Africa has many communities that are difficult or impossible to connect to the grid. How can small-scale package treatment plants assist in bringing services to these communities?
Package plants exist for both sewage treatment and water treatment. I believe the most obvious need for these plants lies in sewage treatment, but WEC is becoming increasingly involved in the supply of package water treatment plants, including those for reuse.
In terms of water treatment, package plants offer an ideal solution for the treatment of water from local boreholes, rivers or dams to potable standard. From these plants, water can be distributed as needed.
When it comes to wastewater, networked sewers are difficult or impossible to run in many settlements due to a lack of planning, housing layouts and difficult terrain. In these instances, the opportunity for decentralised facilities becomes viable. Package plants provide opportunities to ‘segment’ regions and treat catchment areas that are easy to combine.
However, in doing this, it remains vital to ensure dignity for the communities in question. WEC’s NEWGEN multiuser toilet system offers many real advantages here. Although this is not a true package plant, it is an ingenious treatment solution to a challenging problem of not having a sewer network and the obvious benefit of realising a recycled water stream and other positive by-products.
Like the NEWGEN system, package plants also offer many potential opportunities for reuse applications.
Do package plants present an opportunity to assist existing large-scale water and wastewater plants that need additional capacity?
Definitely – particularly because they can be installed and operational in significantly less time. Couple this with their modular nature and you expand capacity without having to build large infrastructure that must take unknown or uncalculated future growth and demand impacts into consideration.
They can also address an immediate need to improve discharge quality, which, for treatment works operating over capacity, often exceeds the required discharge specification and pollutes our water resources.
What are the benefits of package plants compared to traditional, largescale plants?
Package plant options for water and wastewater treatment offer a range of benefits. Each package plant is fully customisable to any client or site requirement, easily mobilised to these sites and offers significantly faster delivery. They also offer better scalability through their modular approach and have lower EIA requirements.
Are the any notable challenges or downsides?
Aside from the unit cost per Mℓ/day treated being higher, package plants are not always able to achieve full nutrient removal due to capacity and configuration. This is especially the case with lower-performance competitor products.
Not all package plants are created equal and this – together with a notable lack of available skills – often leads to inappropriate or poor-quality package plants being installed. This is compounded by the fact that the barriers to entry are low for competitors and ultimately contribute to a poor market perception of package plant performance – despite the fact that there are many good companies offering quality solutions.
How do we ensure that package plants remain compliant?
To achieve this, we need industry regulation and technology approval through regulation. Unfortunately, the registration and monitoring of installed packages by an authority such as the Department of Water and Sanitation is currently non-existent.
Are there other applications particularly suitable to package plants?
The result of areas not being connected to a municipal sewer network or overloaded centralised treatment systems, means there is an obvious demand in the municipal space. However, other industries are facing similar challenges. Consequently, there is also a real demand in the mining sector, the construction industry, housing estates, property developments, lodges and tourism venues, and the industrial sector.