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The IWAMA project has organized six extensive workshops throughout its duration, each focusing on a particular topic, recognized by partners as essential in the continuous process of capacity development in the wastewater treatment sector. The project covered subjects of energy consumption and production, sludge handling, reduction of nutrients – and most recently, existing challenges in maintenance of plants.


The sixth and the last workshop in the course of IWAMA was focused on the topic “Constructional and operational challenges”, it was hosted by the project partner GIWK – Gdańsk Water Utilities. The workshop was organized on 19–21 September 2018 in Gdańsk, Poland, attracting more than 70 participants from the water sector in the Baltic Sea Region.

Opened up with energetic welcomes from Piotr Grzelak, Vice-Mayor for Housing and Public Utilities Policy, and Jacek Skarbek, CEO of Gdańsk Water Utilities, the workshop continued with introducing solutions to various challenges that might occur during the construction process of new facilities, or while maintaining an already existing plant. Presenters highlighted several overarching themes: technical questions, such as solving of seasonal fluctuations in loading or operating dewatering and thickening processes, the challenges in personnel demand, the issue of applying smart prediction strategies, f.ex. computer modelling to optimise plant’s performance, and various matters of meeting the demands of and balancing the financing from local, national and regional levels when talking about the governance of WWTPs. The speakers represented a mix from academia, water associations and private sector professional fields, offering solutions that were proven not only in theory and in practice, but also on the general competitive market, which is crucial when talking about WWT infrastructure.

Improving maintenance from a technological perspective

Prof. Matthias Barjenbruch and Dr. Julia Kopp introduced the technical side of the maintenance challenges in their respective presentations. Talking about “Variation of loading of WWTP – seasonal influences”, Prof. Barjenbruch referred to the example of touristic season that has just ended in the coastal cities of the region, and how it influences their wastewater disposal. Not only the inflow increases during the peak summer times, the concentration of different parameters changes accordingly. Several case studies were introduced in relation to this topic, following the change also during the peak of Christmas/New Year. Solution to this problem can be found in dynamic simulation calculation to correctly measure the capacity of the plant during the peak times.

Dr. Julia Kopp, in turn, focused on the matter that can occur on a plant on a regular basis: common mistakes and possible approaches to a more effective process of dewatering and thickening, and usage of polymers. Dr. Kopp introduced different technologies in dewatering process and offered practical advices to optimization of it, for example, applying simple “tissue tests” to check the effectiveness of sludge dewatering.

Modelling the future of plants

The discussion also touched upon the hype topic of applying computer simulation for optimizing plants’ performance. Imre Takacs, CEO of Dynamita company, presented six models for online control on the plant and specified how each of them work and what would be the practical challenges and benefits of applying them. Jacek Mąkinia and Ewa Zaborowska from the Gdańsk University of Technology introduced an even more in-depth study on “Optimisation of the WWTP performance and design using computer simulation”. While mathematical modelling and computer simulation are certainly highly advantageous allowing no disruptions to existing systems in detecting unforeseen problems, presenters pointed out that those are neither cheap nor easy to apply, and simulation only gives approximate results.

Feel that your knowledge and skills are valued

Professional personnel and the need of lifelong learning are of high demand in the WWT sector, therefore a special session for case studies in this subject was organized during the workshop with speakers presenting their solutions from different parts of the region – Germany, Finland, Estonia and Poland. Presenters highlighted diverse trainings that can be performed for continuous education of plants’ personnel. D.Sc. Sirpa Sandelin, introducing the matter of “Knowledge Management and Retention in Finnish WWTPs”, summarized in her presentation most common challenges in water services: ageing personnel, diminishing workforce, operational efficiency. Focusing on a case study of Pori Water organization, D.Sc. Sandelin revealed that people learn about 80 percent of their skills at work and new knowledge is developed by solving current problems. However, to make the learning process efficient, a specially organized environment is needed to boost creativity and increase the level of comfort with a shared and common culture. “The personnel should feel that their skills and knowledge are valued, as each individual contributes to the organisational development,” – said D.Sc. Sandelin.

Discussing with your peers

Traditionally, a significant part of the workshop programme was devoted to the neighbourhoods sessions in the themes of capacity development tools developed in the project, questions of dewatering and using polymers, and selected aspects of maintenance from the energy efficiency perspective. The neighbourhoods sessions concept allows organizing topically-focused discussions for professionals depending on their field of interest, and the sessions bring together experiences from varied parts of the region allowing outlining special practices applied in different countries.

With the extensive discussions around the named topic, it is of no less importance to offer practical examples and experience. Therefore, during the second day of the workshop, participants went for a site visit to the Wschód wastewater treatment facilities. In the scope of practical demonstration of the treatment, sludge thermal treatment, and cogeneration plants, the participants visited also the pilot testing anammox-based system for mainstream treatment launched in the IWAMA project. The pilot investment including a combined anammox-constructed wetland focuses on minimizing energy consumption for the removal of organics and nutrients while maximizing recovery of organic matter from wastewater to produce renewable energy.