The following interview with Rick McGregor has been taken from Hospital Wastewater Treatment: Global Scenario and Case Studies, out now from IWA Publishing.
Please introduce yourself, your company, and what activity you are doing/have done in the water sector.
Rick McGregor, I am senior technical advisor of two companies, InSitu Remediation Services Ltd and HClearO both based in Canada but do work around the world. IRSL specializes in the in situ treatment of groundwater using a variety of chemical, physical and biological approaches whereas HClearO focuses on the above ground treatment of impacted groundwater using a mix of chemical, physical and biological processes.
What is your perspective in hospital wastewater treatment?
For us, hospital wastewater has two main areas of concern, traditional contaminants such as organic carbon, volatile organic compounds, heavy metals, petroleum hydrocarbons, etc. and emerging contaminants such as pharmaceuticals, PFAS, micro plastics, viruses etc. For groundwater impacts the treatment of the first set of compounds are relatively well understood and demonstrated using both in situ and ex situ methods. For the emerging contaminants, ex situ methods are better demonstrated and advanced than in situ methods which are still being researched, tested, and implemented. However, the in situ treatment of
these compounds will most likely be more sustainable and economically more appealing than ex situ methods.
What challenges are you looking for in this water operator position?
Water operator positions will continue to demand higher education and training to operate the systems as they become more complex and automated. This combined with the drive towards flexible systems that can treat highly specific compounds will require the operators to have a more diverse educated/experience background and be able to problem solve or require more reliance on specialized engineering/maintenance services.
What type of future can we expect from hospital wastewater treatment plants if they existed?
The complexity of wastewater derived from hospitals will continue to increase as more compounds are introduced into the medical system. This combined with an increased understanding of human and ecological toxicology and greater demand for potable water and usable land will demand that treatment plants/systems become more efficient and effective.
What are new cost effective systems that can replace existing treatment systems?
A drive away from chemical/mechanical/energy intensive systems will continue with biological/natural based systems becoming more common. This change will be challenged by the need to treat more compounds within the wastewater to lower levels.