[Blog] 5 key takeaways from webinar: Innovation in wastewater treatment

SNBC

By Dr Ezequiel Santillan

Discussions on innovation in wastewater treatment are necessary more than ever as we move towards achieving the sustainable development goals. This requires the participation of different stakeholders: industry, government and research institutions. As a speaker for this webinar, and SCELSE senior research fellow, here’s my 5 key takeaways from this UK-SG/academic & industry discussion.  



1. Holistic discussion from experts of diverse backgrounds:

The balanced views on the needs and potential for innovation in wastewater treatment were remarkable. We had perspectives from the government (Singapore’s PUB), private company (UK’s Veolia) and two research centres – SCELSE & University of Edinburgh to shed light on the issues faced on the ground; and research that is being carried out in both experimental and modeled systems.


2. I had a better appreciation of the problems on the ground

as Veolia’s tech manager, Paul Banfield, highlighted some current problems in wastewater treatment practice, three in activated sludge and one in anaerobic digestion:

  • Achieve well-formed floc and good settlement properties
  • Control nitrous oxide generation and emissions, as wastewater treatment is the 2nd biggest source of this greenhouse gas
  • Find a way to measure microbial activity in real-time
  • For anaerobic digestion: Understand the microbial mechanisms that cause biological desulphurization using micro-aeration. This works in practice but the underlying microbial mechanisms are yet not understood.

3. I enjoyed the case study of Jurong Water Reclamation Plant from Dr Winson Lay’s talk.

He highlighted the practical relevance of understanding the ecology of polyphosphate-accumulating organisms (PAOs) and challenges of treating greasy wastewater.


4. Dr Gavin Melaugh showed how neural networks and image analytics can be applied in wastewater management.

Neural networks, a machine learning technique, could be used to distinguish good from bad settling flocs in microscopy images from activated sludge plants. This was also an eye-opener for me.


5. Ecological theory can lead to innovations in wastewater treatment

Finally, I hope the audience understood my point that ecological theory can lead to innovations in wastewater treatment, by allowing us to classify, interpret and predict the response of microbial communities to disturbances. I also shared about the relevance of the variability and sometimes stochastic nature of the biological processes we depend on for wastewater treatment. These views are important in practice, since wastewater treatment relies on complex communities of microbes that interact with themselves and with the environment.


This webinar was organised by SNBC, NBIC, SCELSE and SG MEM; and was held on 12 Oct 21.  

Visit here to view other recorded talks of the webinar.

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