Victoria University has collaborated with academia and industry partners to create an innovative wastewater treatment plant to be installed at Australia’s Davis Research Station which will turn Antarctic waste into some of the cleanest water in the world.
The research teams from Victoria University, University of Melbourne, Australian Antarctic Division, Veolia, TasWater, Coliban Water, RMIT University, Curtin University and AECOM, designed, built and demonstrated the plant at TasWater’s Selfs Point Wastewater Treatment Plant with funding support from the Australian Water Recycling Centre of Excellence.
Victoria University’s Professor Stephen Gray, Dr Jianhua Zhang, Dr Shobha Muthukumaran and Professor Mikel Duke spent three years collaborating with these partners to verify the plant was able to reliably process human and kitchen waste into drinking water with minimal impact on the environment when discharged into the ocean.
Prof Gray said that while the technology to convert wastewater into drinking water is well established, the challenge for small plants located in the Antarctic was how to operate it reliably when there are no water experts or sophisticated laboratories on-site, the staff change each year and supplies are only shipped in once annually. “The solution was in the design of the system and its ability to monitor and control the process to ensure the correct water quality is maintained. If the operation of the plant varies from set points, the water is able to be sent back to the start for reprocessing”.
Australian Antarctic Division Engineer, Michael Packer, said the “$1.5 million dollar plant is self-contained, low maintenance and designed to be operated remotely. The wastewater will undergo a series of processes to produce the purest water possible and once installed, this will be the best treatment system in Antarctica.”
The plant has been trialled in Hobart over the past two years before being transported to Davis Research Station on the icebreaker Aurora Australis this summer.
The Division’s General Manager Support and Operations, Dr Rob Wooding, said wastewater management in Antarctica is a challenging issue but one which is vital to get right. “We want to lead Antarctic nations by setting up the best treatment system possible and this plant is a significant leap forward in the way we manage waste on our stations,” Dr Wooding said.
“While there are no current plans to use the purified water for drinking, it will ensure the water we discharge into the marine environment has a negligible impact.”
A team of specialised tradespeople will install the Advanced plant over winter with commissioning scheduled for late 2018. More Advanced plants will be built at Australia’s other Antarctic stations in the future.