Karen Sanchez - Peter Woods - Don MacKay
at the Maroochy Water Services Nambour Sewage Treatment Plant
Wastewater Treatment Down Under. A report from the land of the clockwise spinning water
In May Ron and I were on our dream vacation in Australia. Post-Birdman Brisbane show may 25th
We had a couple of days free, so I got in touch with Don MacKay, Principal Teacher of Water and Wastewater Treatment at the Open Learning Institute in Brisbane, Queensland.
Don generously offered to take us on tours of Queenslands beautiful beaches and rainforests.
My heart lies with wastewater er, sewage. I could not resist and asked Don if we could visit an Australian wastewater treatment plant. So, on our way to the beach, amongst the (Giant) Pineapple and the sugar cane fields, we stopped off at the Maroochy Water Services Nambour Sewage Treatment Plant.
My first surprise was the level of security. We drove up to the gated security fence and were greeted by a camera and intercom. Once inside, the operator Peter Woods, was a bit confused why we were interested in touring a wastewater plant on our holiday, but generously agreed to give us a tour.
The reason the security is so tight there is that they have had problems with trespassing and vandalism. Water reuse is being proposed there in Maroochy, and the presence of endocrine disrupters in water is a hot button issue that has generated public discussion and even fear.
The facility is a nutrient removal plant that uses the Bardenpho process with aerobic digestion and has DAF and a belt filter press for biosolids processing and disinfects effluent with UV prior to discharge.
Queensland is semi-tropical, and heat is the biggest operational issue. The main problem is odors. Besides heat, anaerobic conditions and long detention times add to the problem. Septage is transported to the plant daily from the many holding tanks in the area. The service area is quite large. And most of the sewers are small diameter and pressurized, adding to the odor situation. Oxygen injection is the main odor control scenario; they have found it works better than chemical addition.
As we walked past the bar screen facility, I noticed that there was a vine with what looked like little green mangos growing on the fence. I asked and was told that was passion fruit! Yum!
Onward to the aeration basin. Nutrient removal is also affected by heat: apparently nitrogen and phosphorous removal are not difficult there. But carbon has to be added at the head of the nutrient removal basins. In Queensland they use sugar cane.
The rest of the facility and its operations seemed similar to ours.
Discharge permit limits in Australia are comparable to the US EPA 30/30 but are based on the receiving water. Non-point discharge and TMDLs are the big issue there now. Also, the Maroochy sewage treatment plant used to discharge to the small ephemeral stream adjacent to the facility, recently had to install a multiple kilometer pipeline to discharge to a lager receiving body of water. Sound familiar?
We thanked Peter and sped on out (in a Holden an Australian car) to enjoy the clean surf and the white sand beaches of the Sunshine Coast, warmed by the camaraderie that sewage provides. Gday mate!
When she's not helping out small towns in Montana, Karen "Kazzer" Sanchez, is the Studio Hostess at GLEA. She's also the drummer and bass player for "The Sludge Band".
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