Home NewsCompanies Environmental Global Water Treatment Europe EU-funded INNOQUA project in innovative trials of earthworms and water fleas to treat wastewater

EU-funded INNOQUA project in innovative trials of earthworms and water fleas to treat wastewater

An  EU-funded Horizon 2020 project involving 20 partners is seeking to demonstrate in real conditions a modular system for water treatment based on the purifying capacity of biological microorganisms using earthworms, zooplankton and microalgae.

The innovative international study, which aims to protect and improve water resources around the world, will measure the effectiveness of the microorganisms as a carbon neutral method of treating waste water.

The INNOQUA project, under the coordination of Nobatek, a renowned French research and technology organisation, involves 20 partners from 11 countries located all over the world. The partners are working on the integration of the different technologies into a single modular system, its testing and demonstration in real conditions.

The project is challenging the preconception that nature-based wastewater treatment is only suitable for rural and remote populations.

Harnessing the combined potential of earthworms, zooplankton and microalgae, INNOQUA’s modular system is currently installed at two pilot sites and 11 demo sites across 11 countries – in both urban and rural environments – where project partners are exploring the treatment efficacy of the system as well as the potential for water re-use.

In the first trial of its kind in the UK, Scottish Water is being used as the most northerly test site in the project to test if the organisms can survive the cold climate.

The 12-month Scottish Water pilot, which is being led by the Research and Innovation team, has just got underway in the small rural community of Littlemill in Nairnshire.

It was chosen based on size, remote location and exposure to the Scottish climate – the perfect place to test the reliability and adaptability of the technology.

It will run alongside the existing treatment plant to make sure the local environment continues to be protected, and Scottish Water has been proactively engaging with residents to inform them of the pilot, discuss plans and answer any questions prior to installation.

Project has potential to have  real impact on way waste water is dealt with around the world

Project Manager Anna Baran from Scottish Water’s Research and Innovation Team said:

“This is a really exciting project for us to be part of and has the potential to have a real impact on the way waste water is dealt with around the world. The technology we are trialling basically replicates a process which happens naturally within soil but we are using it to clean waste water.

“The first stage of treatment involves a tank filled with earthworms – the worms eat the larger particles of organic matter in the waste water, before it is added to a second tank containing water fleas and microalgae which remove the finer bits of organic matter.

“At this stage, the water should be in a condition that would allow it to be returned back to the natural environment.”

She added: “The objective of the project is to provide a decentralised, ecological waste water treatment for use in rural communities like Littlemill, as well as industries such as agriculture and aquaculture.

“It would also have the potential to be used in developing countries – around 2.5 billion people globally are without sanitation facilities, so the development of an accessible method of treating waste water such as this could be very significant in tackling that issue.”

Click here to visit the INNOQUA website

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