Grand Challenges Canada sanitation videos: emergency sanitation

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  • isis
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Grand Challenges Canada sanitation videos: emergency sanitation

Hello (I think my previous post went to the wrong category- I'm new here!),
Grand Challenges Canada videos are out! There is a category on sanitation innovations, which you can check out by applying the filters. Here is my favourite on emergency sanitation: applications.grandchallenges.ca/en/viewV...5E6AA0EE3BBD83780262
Apparently, the "Likes" are one of the many criteria these proposals are assessed on. So, "Like" whatever you like!
Ciao,
Isis
Isis (yes, this is an actual name and it is not what you are thinking)
WASH junkie
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  • christoph
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  • Sanitary engineer with base in Brazil and Peru, doing consultancy in other countries of LA
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Re: Grand Challenges Canada sanitation videos: emergency sanitation

Hello,
I don´t know if you already used the system you proposed. Our main technology we use in Rotária do Brasil is SBR, most by venturi aeration. We already tried out the simple self-construction version and we use it in the cases when our regular aeration system has a problem (as it needs just some piping and a pump) but:
  • it is very uneffective in the use of energy,
  • it is a problem for the sludge (floc structure), as you are circulating all the activated sludge through the pumps constantly.

Beside that I don´t understand why this is a good solution for emergency sanitation. You need a water provision to flush down excreta, you need sewer up to the treatment plant, you need well trained operators - as activated sludge is a technical treatment, you need a constant provision of energy, you need relativly large reactos and you need a sludge treatment..... not exactly the condicions of an emergency situation.

So.. although I do use (and sell) the system proposed, I am totally against it for emergency situations and I do find the self built venturi for sanitation critical. And last but not least, it is just regular sanitation, I don´t find it very sustainable.

Christoph
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  • JKMakowka
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Re: Grand Challenges Canada sanitation videos: emergency sanitation

Some of the other entries in the challenge are interesting too by the way.

Concerning the one linked above: while I think some "components" of the idea are good (use of standard and readily available material etc.) I have to agree with Christoph that the proposed method is unfit especially for emergencies.

SBRs ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sequencing_batch_reactor ) aren't even (primarily) designed to disinfect, but rather to remove organic material (COD/BOD) so that the effluent has less of a negative ecological effect on surface-waters upon discharge.
Sure, due to the high biological activity and relatively long retention time, you will also see a reduction in pathogens, but that's really just a (unsecure) side-effect.

IMHO, any emergency excreta treatment will have to have some sort of heat-disinfection component either directly with the sludge (ATAD or similar) or by de-watering/drying and then probably burning it.
Contrary to regular WWTPs the main concern is that of public-health and not so much that of organic material and nitrogen removal to improve surface water quality.
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  • caetano
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  • Caetano Dorea is an Associate Professor at the University of Victoria where he leads the Public Health & Environmental Engineering (PH2E) Lab, Canada’s only research group primarily dedicated to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). His interests and expertise are at the crossroads of environmental and public health engineering.
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Re: Grand Challenges Canada sanitation videos: emergency sanitation

Hi there everybody (this is my first post),
I was told that someone had posted a link of our project here (thanks Isis).
Just to clarify, I think a lot of details may have gone missing in the two minute video. For starters (JKMakowka), we never said that the SBR treatment alone is enough to disinfect. If you watch the video again, you will notice that its objective is to provide enough treatment to render the disinfection effective. Everybody knows that SBRs do not provide disinfection :) !
I am glad to know that you have used SBRs and that you like them. As I have mentioned there is much more to the project that is not said in two minutes (and nor do we wish to divulge all our little secrets). Anyhow, just rest assured that we have thought of the points you have mentioned and there is a way around all this (in fact that is where most of the innovation is)!
Also, in emergencies (contrary to development contexts), there are much more resources available and long term sustainability is not the objective. This is important to notice (we are developing this with humanitarian partners, as they know best their field limitations). So, you are absolutely right and nailed it in the head, that it is not a sustainable system! Also, if you pay attention to the video, we are not talking about conventional waterborne sewage. This is for the treatment of pit sullage (that is trucked in).
Anyhow, this is a two minute video that is intended to "engage the public". As I can see by your comments and the likes... we are engaging! It is worth noting, that we did a video intended for the general public... so, it is obvious that with very few technical details, experts like yourselves will have many questions to ask. Send me a message and I am more than happy to explain.
Cheers,
Caetano
Caetano
University of Victoria
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  • JKMakowka
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Re: Grand Challenges Canada sanitation videos: emergency sanitation

Thanks for the clarifications.

So you are planning to chlorinate (or maybe UV treat???) the effluent after the SBR?

By the way: the "sustainable" comment by Christoph was likely meant in regards to nutrient recycling, e.g. the main theme of this forum (sustainable sanitation; SuSanA).

Edit: Last but not least, I think what Christoph was referring to when he talked about flush toilets etc. is that the process of SBRs is really geared toward waste water and not sludge treatment. Even if you dilute the pit-latrine contents to vacuum them out easily, it is still a far way off from typical municipal waste water in regards to solid to liquid content. And even further diluting it, is not only a huge waste of water (which might not be available in the emergency, think of a drought situation) but also makes everything less efficient and requires bigger storage volumes.

I guess you have thought about that problem also already, but I would like to hear your thoughts on it.
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  • christoph
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Re: Grand Challenges Canada sanitation videos: emergency sanitation

Hi Caetano,
Sorry but there must be a misunderstanding. I did not "engage". I think the video is not good and misleading... especially if even "experts" get the wrong impression how can the public understand.
You tell us

there is much more to the project that is not said in two minutes (and nor do we wish to divulge all our little secrets)


it seems to be in the "sanitation innovation". So how about telling us about the innovation? Because the aspects you posted are not (as you told us –see quote) the innovation.

I get nervous when I read

in emergencies (contrary to development contexts), there are much more resources available


Will say ... we have more money to spend than in development contexts?
I´m thinking of the earthquake situation in Peru in 2007... or wherever... energy a large issue. Availability of somebody who takes care of a technical treatment.. what a waste would that be, they have to reinstall water provision.
So refugee camps?
Energy problems as well and who cares for the sludge of an SBR.
As Krisan wrote, for treating pit latrine sludge SBR are not adequate. So I´m, as well, really keen to know where the innovation is.

Look Caetano, we may sound a bit harsh, but there are some people trying the forum to promote themselves with their wonder solutions, we try to avoid that.

Lets hear what you have – you told us you have more.

Cheers
Christoph
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  • caetano
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  • Caetano Dorea is an Associate Professor at the University of Victoria where he leads the Public Health & Environmental Engineering (PH2E) Lab, Canada’s only research group primarily dedicated to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). His interests and expertise are at the crossroads of environmental and public health engineering.
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Re: Grand Challenges Canada sanitation videos: emergency sanitation

Thanks for engaging in this discussion!
Christoph, I do not sell SBRs! So I have no conflict of interest and I am not here to "promote" myself, as you have suggested. But I see were you are coming from, given your company's expertise in the matter. Another user shared the link to our video which she seemed to have liked... that's it, that's all. I guess you can take this up with the moderator, if you are at all uncomfortable.
As I mentioned, the video has to explain a problematic and how we will go about to address it. The very specifics are probably where we would not lose people's attention. Anyhow, as a first experience of making a video, I can see I have marginalised the expert community (at least two of them :-) )... oops!
The innovation is in a system that is fit-for-purpose for emergencies. Currently, there is no (practical) way of treating feacal waste in humanitarian crises, as you may know. We are not proposing a system for all situations, as every technology has its limits.
In these situations, there is typically more resources available than in development. I see you have made a somewhat basic assumption that money = resources... which is not the case! Resources means amongst other things (yes) money, technical support, logistical supply chains, etc. I am sure you can cite many other examples of where there have been failures in emergencies, as you have. Anyhow, I can see how this context may not be as well perceived in a "sustainable sanitation" forum. Yes, JKMakowka well observed... but the posting is under "emergency sanitation". So, I believe some contextualisation should be done, no? Emergencies, by their very nature, may not be fitting to whatever we decide to define long-term sustainability as.
You are also right, the plan is to disinfect with chlorine. The main objective is public health protection... but through supplementary treatment, we can make this process more effective and also open more possibilities for final disposal of liquid portion.
As for the nature of the waste, pit sullage (I include here septic tank waste) has varying quality. There is obviously, limits as to what can be done... and this is what we intend to find out (i.e. the performance envelope). However the intermittent batch treatment operation mode lends itself very useful for the intended application. I hope we will agree on this point, as it is what you (Christoph) have stated as one of the SBR's advantages on your website ( www.rotaria.net ).
I am sorry I misunderstood Christoph's post. To me, he was clearly refering to the need for installing flush toilets and a sewer system: "You need a water provision to flush down excreta, you need sewer up to the treatment plant...".
As for the energy, indeed this is always an issue with most treatments. But our approach is to use equipment that relief agencies already have. So, we are looking at diesel and petrol pumps. Not the cheapest, but this is what they have available and what works best for them (this is what our partners have asked of us). Remember, this is intended as a short-term measure... not as a "sustainable sanitation" intervention.
Yes, please send me a message and I am glad to discuss with you. But I am new to this forum and our project is still at a PROPOSAL PHASE. It is not customary in academic circles to discuss proposal ideas in a public forum. I did not make the original posting and am just here to answer some doubts that were raised due to the nature of the video we were asked to make.
Anyhow, great to discuss with you!
Cheers,
Caetano
Caetano
University of Victoria
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