Event wrap-up: 2016 Biosolids and Source Management Conference

14-15  November 2016


Written By Luc Kox, AWA WA Branch Committee Member and Darren Smith, Networking and Industry Sub-Committee Member

The 2016 Biosolids and Source Management Conference, hosted by the Australian Water Association in partnership with the Australian & New Zealand Biosolids Partnership (ANZBP), was a terrific event with participants from a good cross section of the industry from across Australia and New Zealand.

From a WA perspective, AWA sub-committee member Darren Smith and Branch Committee member Luc Kox contributed to the Conference with two presentations and the Water Corporation also had a delegate attend the event.

Day 1 started off with setting the scene through a series of great keynote speeches by Australian Water Association Chief Executive Jonathan McKeown, Paul Darvodelsky of the ANZBP and Bill Barber. Bill’s presentation was interesting and entertaining; he took us through the evolution of wastewater treatment and biosolids handling and pointed out that  some of the technologies that are being applied today, actually first emerged many years ago as far back as the early 1900s!

In the afternoon, Frances Rutledge shared Hunter Water’s experience around contamination of groundwater with PFAS – compounds that are often associated with aviation fire retardants. Frances shared how Hunter Water addressed the contamination and how they successfully identified the not so likely source (hint: it wasn’t the obvious.)

Geoff Latimer of Ascend Water and Environment raised a very interesting topic: Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) in Biosolids. POPS is the collective name for trace contaminants that are found in biosolids across the world, and are likely to be present in Australia biosolids. Australia is about to ratify the Stockholm Convention, which prescribes specific handling of POPs containing materials should be handled. As none of the current biosolids management practices in Australia would be classed as appropriate, this could pose some major risks on the industry. The discussion that arose on this topic, was fertile ground for Day 2 which focussed on  the technical aspects and solutions.

Day 2 kicked off with another great keynote speaker Keiran Smith, Manager Media and External Communications at Sydney Water. Keiran shared some of the strategy behind Sydney Water’s highly successful ‘Keep wipes out the pipes’ social media campaign and explained how social media and traditional media prolonged the campaign’s success by keeping the story alive for a prolonged period of time.

WA’s contributions to the conference were made by Luc Kox presenting on an innovative way to reduce and recycle biosolids, making us of the energy contained in the sludge itself without the use of external fuel sources. This was supported with an example from a German wastewater treatment plant that reduced amount of solids produced by 90% and turning the remaining product in a ready to use fertiliser that contains Phosphorus. Darren Smith presented a great innovation by using sonar on remote controlled boats to assess the sediment hardness of sludge in wastewater treatment ponds. Using his modelling skills and experience, originating from the oil and gas industry, Darren demonstrated how the amounts and condition of sludge in ponds can be determined, which in turn helps water utilities to effectively plan and execute their maintenance activities for removing the solids.

In the afternoon a dedicated session on co-digestion was held to share insights and experiences across Australia and New Zealand in selecting the right co-substrates and an example of a wastewater treatment plant in New Zealand which boosted it energy production by co-digesting waste from dairy industries.

In conclusion, the conference was very informative and worthwhile for all delegates. A great job done by AWA’s Kiri Goschnick and Nicola Helme who organised the conference!

If you are interested in learning more about the ANZBP and/ or the AWA Biosolids or Source Management Specialist Networks, please contact Nicola Helme by phone: 02 9467 8429 or email: nhelme@awa.asn.au. Alternatively, you can also speak with Darren or Luc at one of the upcoming Association events.