UK Treating Wastewater with Smart Bugs

If there is one thing that makes treating wastewater challenging, is controlling the noxious odours caused by ammonia. Ammonia is the by product of the breakdown of animal and vegetable matter and is what gives organic waste its unpleasant smell. But a new study in the United Kingdom may offer a possible solution for this repugnant problem.

Thames Water has allocated approximately £1.1 billion to encourage programs that seek the protection and the enhancement of the environment. They are also looking into reducing pollution by about 18 percent and are committed to generating enough renewable energy to power 115,000 homes. This is all a part of its draft £11.7 billion business plan for 2020-25 in which the company proposes to invest on to improve resilience, service and efficiency of its wastewater treatment facilities, as well as provide more support for customers in vulnerable circumstances.

One of the more promising programs is making use of non-genetically modified microorganisms to eat ammonia and reduce the foul odours in wastewater treatment plants. This trial took place in Sherfield-on-Loddon in Hampshire with the hope that, if successful, they can eventually extend this innovative process throughout the Thames Valley and London. These two places have the highest population growth with about twice the average rate than the rest of the U.K.

Eve Germain-Cripps, a wastewater research, development and innovation manager, explained that they need to innovate and invest ahead of time to ensure that they have capacity to accommodate the population growth in the future. The use of these “smart bugs” that feed on ammonia are essential in enhancing the wastewater treatment process needed for such a task.

“We’re always looking for new ways to be more efficient and resilient in the way we care for the precious environment in which we operate, while managing the impacts of climate change and population growth, and I’m excited to find out if the bugs still have the same appetite when the temperature drops over the winter”, Cripps said.

Colder temperatures can render these bugs less effective in removing ammonia during the winter season so they have turned to an American biotech company called Microvi Biotech to provide more resilient smart bugs that can work throughout the winter. These bugs can voraciously consume double the amount of organic waste than the current wastewater treatment process.

The use of these smart bugs began in June and have so far resulted in positive outcomes. They are now looking into expanding the process to handle more wastewater using existing infrastructures. Located in a small research and development facility in Sherfield-on-Loddon, these bugs are contained in specially made advanced polymer capsules where the ammonia is consumed.

Thames Water has the capacity to remove 4.4 billion litres of wastewater from about 15 million people in the areas they service. If the trial with smart bugs ends up being viable and sustainable, the repercussions of this innovation will be significant not only for Thames Water, but also for the rest of the world.

If you are a municipality in Ontario and in need of a biosolids management solution, please feel free to contact us at 1 (877) 479-1388.


UK Treating Wastewater with Smart Bugs
Scroll to top