DHV engineering blurs the line between sewage treatment and river habitat
Skrivet av Anouk Bertner, juni 29, 2010 - 12:56pm
By: Tobias Stocker, CR Manager, DHV Group, member of the Real Change network
Like most sewage treatment plants, the one at Soerendonk in The Netherlands was originally designed to remove nitrogen and phosphorus, cleaning water to the point where it could be safely discharged into a natural waterway. But when the engineering firm of DHV was asked to develop plans for a renovation of this 40 year old facility, they raised the bar by asking a simple question: can a sewage facility actually help to enhance the health of natural systems?
In order to tackle this challenge, DHV’s first step was to reconfigure their approach by introducing 150 of their employees to The Natural Step Framework and other sustainability theories. Additionally, 40 key design personnel engaged in more advanced training and 15 participated in a certification course focused on Cradle-to-Cradle concepts. As a result of these initiatives, a core team of 4 staff members created a concept that they call “water harmonica” - a way of using engineering to mimic natural life-sustaining processes. Awareness of sustainability principles has now led to innovative combinations of technologies that are not just single-issue solutions, but now provide more value by making active additions to natural systems.
The change has been a deep one, as Hans van Sluis, senior advisor on vitalization of water at DHV notes. “The effect of this change in our way of thinking about sewage treatment has been fundamental. We now look at sewage treatment not as a necessity to reduce pollution and safeguard health but as a chance to enhance ecosystems and the related service provision. This is a first translation of systems thinking into this branch of technological development, which opens up completely new possibilities.”
These new possibilities are now on display at the sewage treatment plant at Soerendonk today. The facility now includes a 9 hectare, €1.2 million (22 acre, US$1.4 million) addition that consists of ponds, marshes and canals filled with aquatic vegetation that blends into the existing river ecosystem. The final pond along the riverbank is designed to be inundated during floods, and during dry seasons, a fish ladder provides a way for fish to spawn in the sewage facility’s final pond. In this way, the line between the “treatment plant” and the “natural ecosystem” is intentionally blurred, providing a benefit to both systems.
DHV is already working on their next challenge: turning water treatment plants into “Total Utility Providers,” by eliminating costly waste streams by combining wastewater purification, green gas production, material recycling all under one roof. We look forward following the many possibilities that the 5,500 employees of DHV will engineer in the coming years.
Questions regarding DHV’s water harmonica, flowforms and water vitalization projects can be directed to Hans van Sluis (email@example.com, +31 (0)33 4682275). General sustainability queries: Mr. Tobias Stöcker (Tobias.firstname.lastname@example.org, +31 (0)33 468 2507)
|Revitalizing effluent STP Soerendonk.pdf||215.33 kB|