News | January 31, 2018

Town Of Ponoka Hosts Pilot Project To Test New Technology At Sewage Lagoon

The Town of Ponoka is hosting a six-month pilot project at its Waste Water Treatment Facility to test and evaluate the potential benefits of new waste water filtration technology.

The new technology is owned and developed by an Edmonton-based company, Swirltex, which recently invited the Town to participate in the pilot project. The project is being funded through a provincial grant from the Alberta Innovates Water Innovation Program, which supports initiatives that promote improved water productivity, healthy aquatic ecosystems and safe, secure drinking water.

Project Funded by Provincial Grant
“We anticipate the Swirltex technology could help improve the performance of traditional waste water lagoons, resulting in increased capacity and a higher quality of treated waste water being discharged into the environment,” said Vicki Lightbown, Director of the Alberta Innovates Water Innovation Program.

“Participating in this pilot project allows us to observe and assess the performance and potential benefits of this new technology first-hand in our own lagoon system at no cost to the Town,” said Dwayne Kwolick, Manager of Operations for the Town of Ponoka. “Swirltex will cover all energy, maintenance and all other costs associated with the trial,” said Kwolick.

The Swirltex technology will temporarily replace the blowers that inject air bubbles into the effluent in one of the treatment ponds at the Town sewage lagoon to help separate out the solids and promote the removal of ammonia from the waste water through oxidation.

During the pilot project, the Swirltex technology will inject a high-pressure airflow that creates tiny micro air bubbles in the effluent as it is swirled around with centrifugal force in a tubular membrane filtration system that separates solids from the liquid. The filtered effluent is then returned to the same treatment pond to continue its usual cycle through the existing lagoon treatment ponds, allowing oxidation and bacterial processes to continue treating the waste water.

Potential Benefits
“The benefits we’re expecting to see with this new technology include an even higher quality of treated waste water than we see with our current lagoon system, as well as an accelerated waste water treatment process that could expand the capacity of our lagoon system by allowing us to process much higher volumes of effluent year round,” said Kwolick.

Peter Christou, President of Swirltex, explained the reason for the accelerated treatment process and higher quality of treated waste water is largely due to the micro air bubbles produced by the technology. “The micro bubbles increase the amount of dissolved oxygen in the effluent, accelerating the bacterial process that removes ammonia from the waste water,” said Christou.

“If the technology performs as expected, that accelerated treatment process and increased lagoon capacity could allow us to support much greater population growth in Ponoka at a lower energy cost than our current waste water treatment system, without having to incur the major capital cost of physically expanding our lagoon system,” said Kwolick. The higher quality waste water also opens the possibility of selling treated waste water for industrial or agricultural use.

Laboratory Testing Ensures Safe Waste Water Quality The Town will continue to conduct scheduled bi-annual discharges of its treated waste water during the sixmonth trial. The Town will also continue to send weekly waste water samples for laboratory testing to ensure the treated water meets safe and acceptable water quality standards prior to being discharged.

Once the pilot project is completed, the Town will analyse the trial results and determine whether the benefits generated by the technology make it worthwhile to implement at the sewage lagoon on a more permanent basis, or if the Town should continue exploring other technologies and options. Kwolick noted that one consideration may be that rather than requiring municipalities to invest capital in purchasing a stand-alone system, Swirltex would provide its waste water treatment technology on a fee-for-service basis.

“We are curious to see how much effluent the Swirltex technology is able to treat during the winter months when bacterial activity in the Town sewage lagoon typically slows to almost a halt as the lagoon ponds ice up. If they are able to significantly increase the volume of waste water we can treat through the winter, that could greatly expand the capacity of our existing lagoon system,” said Kwolick.

Low Risk Project
Kwolick noted that the pilot project is a low risk initiative for the Town to participate in. “If there are any problems or complications with the technology, Town Waterworks staff, who will continue to monitor the lagoon and the pilot project, can simply flip a switch to power up the existing blowers and turn off the Swirltex system to quickly revert back to the existing waste water treatment process at the lagoon,” said Kwolick.

Other municipalities are expected to visit the Ponoka Waste Water Treatment Facility to view the pilot project during the coming months. NorQuest College is developing a Lagoon Specialist Course for lagoon operators that includes training on the use of new technologies such as the Swirltex system. The training course, which is expected to begin this spring, would bring NorQuest students to Ponoka to visit the pilot project site.

Swirltex has previously conducted smaller scale testing of its technology, but the Ponoka pilot project will be the largest trial to date, with plans to process in excess of 1,500 to 2,000 cubic metres of effluent daily.

SOURCE: Town of Ponoka