JS Water Energy Life, a Delhi-based venture, has recently set up a unique Bio Sewage Treatment Plant (Bio-STP) at the Delhi Golf Club, which costs just one-third of a conventional STP. As per the venture, this is “the first water treatment plant in the world that draws raw water (not pretreated STP water) from a municipal wastewater drain” flowing near the golf course. (Above image of the aeration pond where the dosing of nano nutrients Aquaritin and Bioritin happens. In the aeration pond, there is also a fountain and air diffuser system for aeration.)
This wastewater then moves through a sump, following which it undergoes ‘phyco-remediation’ (use of algae to treat wastes or wastewater) using their breakthrough nanotech solutions called Aquaritin and Bioritin in an open deep pond. The wastewater is then further channelled through multigrade and activated carbon filters to the final irrigation water pond. “The system consumes very little power reducing its carbon footprint,” claims Sunil Nanda, managing director at JS Water Energy Life, in a conversation with The Better India.
He adds, “The irrigation network draws water from this tank and distributes it to the entire 27-hole golf course at 3 million litres per day. The irrigation water has high oxygen levels, reduced TDS (total dissolved solids) and TSS (total suspended solids) and contains all macro and micronutrients required for the maintenance of better turf. The cost of this Bio-STP is just one-third of a conventional one. LED lights facilitate photosynthesis through the night. Meanwhile, Aquaritin and microbial formulations facilitate rapid biodegradation of organic load and this results in near-zero sludge.”
Golf courses around the world are known to use excessive amounts of fresh water. Greenskeepers must source recycled water to increase their sustainability.
“We started to work on the design in late 2020 and developed it over a year. This is an innovation that should inspire all the golf courses in water-scarce regions of the world. We can deploy this technology in aeration ponds/tanks of existing STPs to improve the water quality, as most STPs do not meet water quality parameters. It will help to eliminate nuisance caused to the community by foul smell and sludge. We can also develop and deploy such an STP for institutions with a large population such as schools and colleges,” he adds.
JS Water Energy is engaged in research, development and manufacturing of integrated nano-scale nutrients for insitu phyco-remediation of all types of polluted water bodies such as ponds, lakes, drains, urban river segments, etc. Extant technologies like the infusion of microbes for in situ remediation of wastewater streams target direct degradation of contaminants using up the available dissolved oxygen and thus making the wastewater even more oxygen deficit.
“These technologies are slow and cannot sustain without aeration. Our technology, Aquaritin, works at the intersection of nano and biotechnology. The technology is encapsulated in the form of nano nutrients. When dosed in wastewater, Aquaritin leads to the sustained growth of diatom algae. Diatoms release pure molecular oxygen in water through photosynthesis, which in turn supports the growth of aerobic bacteria and transforms the water body from anaerobic to aerobic even at benthic levels [ecological region at the lowest level of a body of water]. They also outcompete blue-green and green algae for nutrients, fix carbon and salts of heavy metals, degrade sludge and starve out weeds like water hyacinths in nutrient-rich streams,” says Sunil.
There are several benefits of this technology, including a significant increase in dissolved oxygen, reduction in COD (chemical oxygen demand) and BOD (biochemical oxygen demand), bio-degradation of faecal sludge and even potential rejuvenation of aquatic life.
“Our technology can be deployed at short notice, scaled up extremely fast and achieves results in a very short period. We recently deployed our breakthrough technology to treat Sg. Gong, a 250 MLD (million litres per day) small river tributary of the Sungai Selangor river in Malaysia. Within three months, we improved water quality from class IV (acceptable for irrigation) to class IIA (fishery, only conventional treatment required) with significant improvement in all water quality parameters,” he adds.
Meanwhile, Bioritin are naturally isolated (non-GMO) consortia of microbes that are dosed following Aquaritin in the wastewater. “The microbes degrade incoming pollutants like sewage, consume nutrients and minimise sludge. The use of Bioritin with Aquaritin is a force multiplier that no man-made system can match. In the Bio-STP there is negligible sludge being generated, whereas, in conventional STP, the sludge generated is a large quantity which has to be dried and transported adding cost and causing air pollution,” says Chandan Singh, project manager.
There are four stages of water treatment in the Bio-STP. The first stage involves moving polluted wastewater from the source to sedimentation tanks for settling suspended solids. The difference is that this water is also treated in their system as it smells and becomes a nuisance for the community. STPs do not treat for foul smell at this stage leading to a strong odour and release of toxic gases.
“The second stage is about moving the partially treated water to an aeration tank(s) where instead of using high-powered aerators to mix air in the wastewater, we carry out Bioremediation and Phyco Remediation biological processes to improve oxygen level. This stage is what makes a Bio-STP much more efficient than a conventional STP. In a conventional STP, the air is mixed with the wastewater. Air is only 20.9% oxygen and contains N2 and other undesirable gases. In biological processes, pure oxygen is released through photosynthesis which is far superior,” explains Devesh Gautam, assistant project manager overseeing the Bio-STP at the DGC.
“Besides, the scale of oxygen bubbles through photosynthesis is at molecular scale (10 ^-15 m) compared to larger-scale bubbles in conventional aerators. The former has a very large surface area and a higher persistence time in water making the process at least 100 times more effective. It is a very different level of oxygenation. This level of oxygenation leads to multiple benefits cascading down to the final process,” he adds.
The last stage is mechanical filtration using activated carbon filters and multi-grade filters after which the water ends up in the final irrigation pond from where it is supplied to the entire golf course. These mechanical filters are primarily used to reduce suspended solids.
Importance of Aquaritin Bio-STP
According to the Central Pollution Control Board report in 2021, India can treat barely a third of the sewage generated per day. Of the 72,368 MLD sewage generated every day, only 20,235 MLD is treated. The rest flows untreated directly into rivers, lakes or other water bodies, which impacts surface water quality as well as the groundwater. It is a very expensive proposition to carry all the wastewater to STPs and treat it to the required standards.
“Urbanisation and growing population are making this task even more challenging. Besides the huge capital cost, the availability of land in urban cities poses another challenge. The STPs have a large carbon footprint because of the machinery and aerator motors that they use. Hence, the better option for India is to consider ‘treatment at source’ as well as other environment-friendly solutions that are more affordable that have a smaller carbon footprint and can be installed by multiple users. Our low-cost Bio-STP is one such option,” says Sunil.
“Our Bio-STP can be configured to any volume of water between 0.5 million litres and 6 million litres per day. For DGC, it is designed to process 3 million litres each day which is more than their peak load and therefore covers all their requirements. In fact, part of the treated water is offered by DGC to New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) which the latter could use for irrigation in their parks or horticultural areas for high-quality irrigation,” notes Chandan Singh.
Beyond saving the fish
“Our design is much superior and cleaner than conventional STPs. They are carbon negative as the process sequesters carbon in a very large measure. If an analogy can be drawn with the energy sector, it can be said that Bio-STP is like a ‘solar power station’ compared to conventional STPs that are like thermal power stations. Besides the carbon footprint, Bio-STP accomplishes ‘Negligible Sludge Generation’ and ‘Removal of Nutrients’ which take the performance to the next level. Since we harness nature’s processes, the cost is lower. On average, our technology saves about 66% power compared to conventional STPs,” says Chandan.
He claims that the current water quality (WQ) is that of “very high-quality irrigation WQ”.
“It brings multiple advantages to the turf, horticulture and field crops. It is very useful for large farms as it can deliver integrated nutrients to the crops. It also affords disease and pest resistance to the crops. We have plans to use key inputs like Aquaritin for irrigation channels that can increase productivity by 10% or more while saving >25% water. We need to demonstrate this to the government. Private farms are already using Aquaritin in foliar avatar for enhancing their production and reducing the disease and stress in tea estates,” he explains.
“We aim to use the technology for drinking water but that is a few years ahead. We have developed a new drinking water disinfectant solution that is non-carcinogenic, unlike chlorine that is being used now in drinking water disinfection,” says Sunil.
Aquaritin Water Solutions claims that many golf courses from around the country have shown interest in this technology because there is a serious mismatch between the irrigation water quality required for the very expensive turf grass and the available quality. “We would like to see this technology being leveraged by other sectors too, particularly by universities and colleges, wherein it could also become a learning platform for students,” says Sunil.
Going beyond this bio sewage treatment plant (Bio-STP), there is a bigger initiative on the horizon. They are developing an IoT-based model for sensing water quality in rivers, drains, wetlands and lakes. This model will integrate the WQ sensing data with drones that are prefilled with Aquaritin and Bioritin.
“Once the online system detects deterioration in water quality in a drain, for example, it will communicate to the drones and they would fly to target areas and dose Aquaritin and Bioritin as required and return for a refill. This can be used in minor rivers and drains, lakes, etc under the care of government agencies, thermal power stations, process industries, etc. This system can save millions of fish and other aquatic life that die in our wetlands and lakes each season due to a lack of dissolved oxygen in the water. In this case, we would not use a Bio-STP, but just the two key ingredients, Aquaritin and Bioritin, in an in situ dosing model,” he claims.
To conclude, Sunil notes that his venture has the technology that can potentially rejuvenate larger rivers like the Ganga and Yamuna rapidly, “mostly within a year at much lower costs”.
“And this can be done and in a way that can help the country’s ‘Decarbonisation Plan’ immensely. The technology is an ‘ecological solution’ to an ‘ecological problem’ of wastewater, not an engineering solution (STPs) to an Ecological problem. The latter can never work to the level required in the Indian context,” he says.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)