The IWAMA project Final Conference organized last week in the city of Turku brought together more than 100 participants to discuss the wastewater sector and how to make it smart and efficient. The Conference was held from 30 January to 1 February 2019 including a site visit to the wastewater treatment plant located in the solid rock of Kakolanmäki hill in the center of Turku, and the internal planning day for the project consortium.
Wastewater treatment practices in Turku
The site visit was accompanied with detailed presentations on the WWTP’s processes and operation introduced by the representative of the plant Jouko Tuomi, as well as on the city’s approach to one of the current topical matters – management of hazardous substances both at the WWT facilities and at the sources presented by Piia Leskinen from Turku University of Applied Sciences.
Turku Region WWTP treats municipal and industrial wastewater from ca. 300 000 residents of the area, with 2000 km sewage network and 500 pumping stations. The plant is operated only by 13 employees, with outsourced support services (such as sludge treatment, maintenance and laboratory services etc.). The Kakolanmäki wastewater treatment plant is a 4-lane wastewater treatment plant, based on mechanical, chemical and biological treatment processes. The purification process is very efficient: the plant removes up to 99% of organic matter, phosphorous and solids (requirement 95%) and 86% of nitrogen (requirement 70%) from processed water. The purified water is discharged into the Linnanaukko harbour basin in Turku. The sludge that is removed from wastewater during the treatment process is dried and transported to Gasum Oy’s biogas plant for further processing.
The Kakolanmäki wastewater treatment plant also features a heat pumping station. Oy Turku Energia recovers the thermal energy from the wastewater to produce heat for district heating purposes. The water that is cooled down by the pumping station is also used for district cooling.
In terms of hazardous substances, the important research work on this subject in the city was done in cooperation with the NonHazCity project. To identify types of sources for different chemicals coming from stormwater, residential and industrial wastewater, 13 sampling sites were installed around Turku supplemented with data provided from the Turku WWTP monitoring reports. Different types of substances were identified in the course of the project – those are spread in urban environment and end up in wastewater sludge, requiring enhanced removal. Wastewater treatment plant is the central station for accumulation of hazardous substances, which creates a need for investments into improving the efficiency of the treatment. On the city scale, managing hazardous substances requires careful mapping of contaminated areas and potential risks, sharing information and providing educational campaigns, and influencing the chemical loading through encouraging investments on pretreatment of wastewater.
The discussions of how decision-makers influence the water sector development continued during the main conference day on 31 January opening the first half of the event’s programme. Being focused on strategic policy making, first speakers introduced their vision on the cleaner Baltic Sea.
Jannica Haldin from HELCOM presented the State of the Baltic Sea holistic assessment report announcing key findings on needed measures to improve its environmental status. One of the particular trends regarding eutrophication, which remains a challenge for the sea, appears to be the ecosystem lag: while inputs of nutrients from land have decreased over time, past and current inputs still impact the overall status resulting in 97% of the Baltic Sea affected by eutrophication.
With the scene set up, Saara-Sofia Sirén from the Finnish Parliament concentrated on the national actions towards solving the sea’s environmental problems, since much of the national legislation is linked to the wellbeing of the Baltic Sea. Two major approaches to improving the sea’s status were highlighted in the presentation: circular economy with potential of reducing eutrophication of the Baltic Sea, and international cooperation influencing the situation through local actions and guiding regional strategies.
The stress on the importance of international cooperation in the Baltic Sea Region prevailed through the speech by Sanni Turunen, PA Nutri coordinator from the Finnish Ministry of the Environment. As PA Nutri specifically targets eutrophication, there were several actions highlighted that can help reduce nutrient inputs to the Baltic Sea, among them, more efficient management of nutrients, improving wastewater treatment and facilitation of cross-sectoral policy-oriented dialogue. Important work in this respect is done via transnational Flagship projects, among which lies IWAMA. In the context of sharpening the work on recycling of phosphorus from wastewater, Turunen also emphasized the involvement of IWAMA project in the platform BSR WATER, which focuses on enhancing continuous cross-sectoral cooperation in smart water management.
With the political background determined to reduce the pressure of eutrophication on the Baltic Sea, the discussion led to more practical field of possible actions to achieve it. As one crucial approach, sustainable benchmarking was introduced by Peter Dane from European Benchmarking Co-operation initiative. Regular benchmarking can provide an objective picture of the utility’s performance over time against the peers, and help to find potential for improvement through sharing good practices. After introduction to the topic of benchmarking, the IWAMA project continued with presenting an important part of the project implementation: benchmarking energy efficiency and sludge handling performance at wastewater treatment plants in the Baltic Sea Region.
The programme of the second part of the day focused on the project outputs and achievements in connection to the regional needs and requirements. Thus, the need for capacity development for wastewater treatment operators was supported by the presented training materials for continuous lifelong learning completed in IWAMA. The question of connecting the region and sustainable sharing of good practices, technical solutions and expertise was, in turn, answered by inviting the participants to the portal Baltic Smart Water Hub launched in the IWAMA project.
The closing key-note by Marko Joas and Savitri Jetoo from the Åbo Akademi University shifted the context from regional and local to global, mapping the bigger picture of the water sector from the multi-level governance perspective. In the face of the growing water crisis, wastewater should be seen as a resource, moving the paradigm from treating wastewater to reusing, recycling and recovering its valuable resource. Closing the contextual loop of the day, the discussion returned to the importance of circular economy and smart water governance to answer the challenges of the sector.