Saturday, October 30, 2010

US Water Infrastructure to be Upgraded

US EPA has announced a new national policy to deal with its aging water infrastructure.  The policy intends to upgrade systems using a range of sustainable options that will be able to deal with the potential storm water issues caused by climate change as well replacing aging systems. Link New York alone has  12,000 km of sewer most now fairly old and either overloaded or in need of replacement. Recently a plan was unveiled to spent $1.5 billion on upgrading their sewerage system to reduce CSOs dumping in excess of 110 billion litres of contaminated water each year into New York surface waters. This upgrade will include a range of sustainable urban drainage options from  green roofs to porous pavements to reduce the volume of surface water going to sewer.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Coastwatch Survey 2010

The Coastwatch survey 2010 is currently taking place from the Black sea to the Baltic and the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. The organization is seeking volunteers to participate as surveyors. It involves walking a chosen 500m piece of coast once around low tide, eyes peeled for lots of information set out on the questionnaire and noting down your observations. For those interested, it can also include water quality tests.  To take part in the survey use the link where you can find the survey sheets, explanatory notes and an interactive online map to input the location of the survey.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ballast Water and the Control of Invasive Species and Pathogens

Following on from Don's comment below there is now a large body of evidence that both invasive species and pathogens can be transferred by ballast water between ports. My previous comment really referred to the acceptance of this problem and making it part our existing barrier approach to pathogen control. There is an excellent website operated by the GEF/UNDP/IMO Global Ballast Water Management Programme (GloBallast) which is supported by the International Maritime Organization. It looks at the evidence and up to date research, including international regulations, concerning ballast water treatment and management. The site provides numerous technical reports and guidelines that can be downloaded. Link

Transfer of Cholera via Ballast Water?

It is very difficult to predict when Cholera outbreaks may occur, with low levels of infection common in many countries with cases being confused with other diarrhoeal diseases.  It is an opportunistic pathogen taking advantage of poor sanitation which so often occurs as a result of disasters and conflict. What is clear is that Cholera is both widespread and increasing in frequency with the WHO estimating between million cases last year. There are two strains of Vibrio cholerae, 01 which has been identified as the cause of the current epidemic in Haiti, and the South-East Asian strain 0139. It is thought that up to 75% of people infected with the bacterium may not develop symptoms but will excrete the bacterium with their faeces for up to 14 days. So the increase in air travel is often cited as the cause of smaller outbreaks.  There is also increasing concern that the bacterium can be transported via water and algae held in ballast tanks in ships which when discharged can contaminate surface waters and shellfish.  

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Replacing COD with TOC

A new study published by Donata Dubber of the Water Technology Research Group.

Chemical oxygen demand (COD) is widely used for wastewater monitoring, design, modelling and plant operational analysis. However this method results in the production of hazardous wastes including mercury and hexavalent chromium. The study examined the replacement of COD with total organic carbon (TOC) for general performance monitoring by comparing their relationship with influent and effluent samples from 11 wastewater treatment plants. Biochemical oxygen demand (BOD5) was also included in the comparison as a control. The results show significant linear relationships between TOC, COD and BOD5 in settled (influent) domestic and municipal wastewaters, but only between COD and TOC in treated effluents. The study concludes that TOC can be reliably used for the generic replacement of both COD (COD = 49.2 + 3.00*TOC) and BOD5 (BOD5 = 23.7 + 1.68*TOC) in influent wastewaters but only for COD (COD = 7.25 + 2.99*TOC) in final effluents.

Dubber, D. and Gray, N.F. (2010) Replacement of chemical oxygen demand (COD) with total organic carbon (TOC) for monitoring wastewater treatment performance to minimize disposal of toxic analytical waste. J. Environ. Sci. Health, Part A, 45, (12), 1595-1600.

Friday, October 22, 2010

New Cholera Outbreak Reported

Cholera strikes again, this time in Haiti. Of all the waterborne diseases cholera is probably the most dangerous and can prove fatal if medical attention is not obtained within a very short time of the symptoms emerging.  A new review by João P. S. Cabral entitled Water Microbiology: Bacterial Pathogens and Water has just been published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (2010, 7, 3657-3703) and looks at the disease in detail.  The last reported outbreak of the disease in Haiti was in 1960.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Partners Sought for Working with Recyclable Materials

The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government have made a call for proposals under the Feasibility Study Grant Aid Funding initiative aimed at encouraging the development of business ideas working with recyclable materials. The closing date for applications is the 21st January 2011. The Water Technology Research Group would be interested in discussing possible collaborative ventures with a view of making an application under the scheme. Full details.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Visit to Ballymore Eustace Water Treatment Plant

Final year students from the Environmental Science course visited Ballymore Eustace Water Treatment Plant this afternoon and were treated to a fantastic tour of the plant.  This also included a sneak preview of the new rapid sand filtration complex.

The plant is undergoing a major upgrade which will increase the output by 26% from 250Mld to 318Mld. Construction of new filters, sedimentation tanks, reservoir, administration and laboratory facilities are well under way with staff currently moving into the new administration building and laboratory.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Another Alien Alert - Killer Shrimp in the UK

The predatory shrimp Dikerogammarus villosus
 Another invasive species has hit the headlines in the past weeks, the predatory shrimp Dikerogammarus villosus, which preys on a wide range of macro-invertebrates and even small fish. It comes from the Steppe region between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. The shrimp is much larger (up to 30mm) than the native shrimps such as Gammarus and has obvious strips making it easy to identify.  The shrimp, described by the Environment Agency as 'particularly vicious and destructive'  was discovered by anglers in Grafham Water, a large reservoir in Cambridgeshire. It has rapidly been moving throughout Europe mainly via the River Danube, but it was a shock when it turned up in the UK.  A containment strategy has been put into place with the water leaving the  reservoir passing thorough a double set of coarse and fine mesh, although it is inevitable that the species will escape into the adjacent River Ouse.  All boat movements are being closely monitored.  The Environment Agency have moved very quickly to control this invader and it will be interesting if the strategy succeeds. Link

Friday, October 8, 2010

River Danube at Risk

A number of people have emailed me asking about the chemical nature of the sludge and its potential impact.  Little has been posted about the exact composition of the sludge except that it is very alkaline ( up to pH 13) and contains heavy metals including cadmium and chromium although in low concentrations.  These wastes are also generally rich in fluoride, sulphate and of course aluminate, but other metals such as nickel, manganese, lead arsenic etc. are also present.  Of course it is also rich in ferric oxide which gives the sludge its distinctive red colouration. The sludge now has entered the Danube which is 2,850 kilometers long and so provides a huge potential dilution for the pollution.  Croatia, Serbia and Romania have all begun testing the river every few hours with high pH values initially reported (pH 9-10) making ammonia a critical problem as it shifts into its unionized form.  Key impacts are suspected to be sedimentation of the solids, ammonia and aluminum toxicity (until pH neutralizes) and possible metal interactions.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Kolontar. Could it happen in Ireland?

Following the disaster in Kolontar, Hungary where a million cubic metres of toxic red sludge, a by-product of the refining of bauxite into alumina, escaped from a storage lagoon when its earth bund failed engulfing a 42 square kilometre area.  Efforts are underway to minimize the effects of the waste on the River Danube. Apart from being a huge human tragedy, this accident could prove to be one of the most serious river pollution episodes in recent history.  This has raised worries about the condition of mine waste storage lagoons in Ireland, where the encasement bunds have not been well maintained.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

IRCSET Postdoctoral Fellowship Programme 2011

The Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology (IRCSET) EMPOWER Postdoctoral Fellowships in 2011 will open on 27 October 2010 and close for applicants on 08 December 2010 (link).  Results will be announced in April 2011 for earliest start date July 2010.  Candidates must be within 3 “academic years” from the award of PhD and propose pursuing their work for 24 months at an Irish research laboratory such as the Water Technology Research Group (link).  The average net salary for the fellow will be €31,275 per annum prior to income tax deductions.  The competition for these Fellowships is very high so only proposals of exceptional quality will be funded.

Applicants must use the on-line system (link) which is not available until 27 October 2010. Applicants may also propose to carry out their research in conjunction with an industry partner as part of the Enterprise Partnership Scheme (link).

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Water Treatment Plants Turn to UV for Cryptosporidium Control

There is no doubt about it but Cryptosporidium remains a major threat to water supplies throughout Europe. Following an outbreak in 2005 Dwr Cymru (Welsh Water) has upgraded the Cwellyn Water Treatment Works which serves 76,000 consumers in North Wales, including Bangor and south Anglesey, at a cost of €15 million. The upgrade, carried out by Black & Veatch and supported by Mulcair, includes the installation of ultra violet treatment as well as several new treatment stages. The upgrade is part of a wider £200 million investment throughout Wales to improve the security of water quality in our supply area.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Video of the River Avoca in Flood

View of the January flood on the River Avoca from the bridge in the village

Friday, October 1, 2010

One cup of coffee is equivalent to 130 litres of water

The Water Footprint Network is based at the University of Twente in the Netherlands whose mission is to promote the transition towards sustainable, fair and efficient use of fresh water resources worldwide (Link). This remarkable organization is doing this via a number of interesting initiatives including the development of a water footprint model. Water diaries are widely used to construct how water is used within the home from a supply source. However, they do not take into account how much water we consume indirectly through the manufacture and preparation of food, clothes and other goods. It takes 6,800 litres of water to make a single pair of denim jeans for example. The calculation of virtual water usage has proven to be very difficult to calculate until recently.  However, the WFN have produced an on-line calculator for this very purpose. This calculator is based on an impressive research base with a large number of their reports and refereed papers available as downloads. From our exploration of the model, it is very accurate. The calculator can be accessed via this link.