A De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) team has trialled a pioneering new system with the support of Scottish Water to clean toxic industrial wastewaters - a process that could benefit our health, the environment and industry.
In a pilot trial, Katherine Huddersman, Professor of Environmental Chemistry at DMU, and her team showed they could successfully pre-treat wastewater typically generated by the oil, gas and chemicals manufacturing industries.
Conducted at Scottish Water's wastewater development centre, the trial removed toxic pollutants to a level that would enable the waste to be treated locally. This means the water is cleared of a large number of 'nasties' - such as oils and pesticides - so that it can be disposed of in a way that meets strict regulations.
For companies who use this system in the future, this means treating waste more economically and sustainably.
Professor Huddersman, head of DMU's Wastewater Research Group, said: "Our motivation for this trial is to find new ways to treat toxic substances on hazardous priority lists. These aren't biodegradable by nature or by traditional biological treatments used at municipal wastewater authorities."
"However, if we can pre-treat the 'nasties', the industrial waters would be discharged safely or go to local municipals."
DMU's Wastewater Research Group, including PhD students, carried out initial scientific testing ahead of the three-month field trial, focused on the removal (advanced oxidation process) of priority substances. The university's reactor, housed in a shipping container, was transported to Bo'ness to the wastewater development centre run by Scottish Water Horizons - a commercial subsidiary of the utility.
The centre is the only test facility of its kind in the UK that enables users to test new processes, technologies and equipment under live conditions in a safe and operational scale environment.
Prof Huddersman said: "We're really pleased with the pilot results. Having the opportunity to conduct scenario testing in a live environment was instrumental to achieving the results we'd hoped for."
"We removed all the oil and toxic compounds from simulated produced water and, in the second half of the trial, removed all the pesticides to negligible concentrations."
"All members of my research group participated. They had a wonderful experience of a pilot-scale wastewater treatment system and learned first-hand from Scottish Water the challenges faced on an operational scale."