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Scope to upgrade wastewater plants amid industry lull

Companies should consider looking into trends that can provide technological improvements for their in-house products

Owing to ageing infrastructure, overloaded treatment plants and poor maintenance, the water and wastewater infrastructure in South Africa is in a dire situation.

Government has had challenges on upgrading this infrastructure, owing to numerous issues, particularly in the sewage and effluent sector.

Engineering, procurement and construction contractor WEC Projects MD Wayne Taljaard says there is scope to upgrade existing wastewater treatment plants using new technology solutions. Nereda is one of these technologies that offer more effective treatment of wastewater at a lower capital and operational cost.

“The construction industry is struggling and this has been marked by large construction firms going into business rescue. Projects are becoming tougher to execute, owing to issues such as late payments, community unrest and difficulty in securing sufficient capital funding,” he says. “This is an industry that needs as much value offering as possible and technologies are a great solution to these challenges.”

The company’s operation and maintenance division, called WECAssist, supports clients in indentifying challenges on their water and wastewater treatment plants and offers solutions on how to solve these challenges. This includes doing audits, reviews, optimisation studies, and offering training for operators and maintenance staff. Additionally, WECAssist supplies spares and consumables for clients to operate the plants effectively.

WEC Projects business development manager Bryan Louw explains that there is an added load that industrial effluent brings to the sewer network. He says the source of these industrial effluents originate from facilities such as pharmaceuticals companies, breweries, beverage plants, paper and pulp factories, food and chemical processing plants.

“Traditionally, in South Africa, effluent from such industrial facilities ends up in the sewer system and, ultimately, in the wastewater treatment plants. Ideally, this effluent should be treated at source, before it gets into the sewer lines. This will relieve pressure on the already overloaded wastewater treatment plants,” says Louw.

Owing to the effluent comprising complex water, it should be treated differently from normal sewage. Similar technology is used to treat industrial effluent, although a different configuration is used. For example, enhanced anaerobic digestors for highly organic industrial effluent is another viable solution. WEC Projects has access to international partners for anaerobic treatments of industrial waste and industrial effluent.

Taljaard adds that government has a mountain to climb in terms of infrastructure builds, refurbishments and maintenance. “We shouldn’t see sewage and effluent as a negative issue because local water treatment specialists have the ability, skills set and access to technologies to upgrade existing wastewater treatment plants,” he concludes.

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