The following interview with Rowe Michels 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.
Rowe Michels is the Chief Executive Officer of Alpheus Water Research, a consultancy and fund that is entirely focused on new, disruptive and environmentally friendly technologies to generate or reuse water. Previously, Rowe was a Wall Street Executive and Research Analyst, gaining 11 consecutive #1 rankings for his coverage of the Electric and Water Utilities Sector.
What is your perspective in hospital wastewater treatment?
Similar to all wastewater, the safe and cost-effective management of hospital wastewater is increasingly challenged by ever more types of chemicals including many new pharmaceuticals and chemical treatments. These new ‘emerging contaminants’ are particularly challenging as they have very long lives (i.e., ‘forever chemicals’) and/or are nano-sized, making traditional filtration difficult or ineffective. Hence, the prior ‘dilution solution’ (i.e., which assumes only small amounts become irrelevant in vast water bodies such as oceans), which has been an assumption for the wastewater sector for decades, is becoming irrelevant as even trace amounts of very small ‘forever chemicals’ accumulate over time. The sector will need new technologies to better separate out various contaminants and toxins so that they can be reused, or fully destroyed.
What type of future can we expect from hospital wastewater treatment plants if they existed?
Hospital wastewater effluents will increasingly need to be treated locally, avoiding excessive transportation costs, and with a greater focus on recapturing, recycling and reusing certain high value chemicals and elements. In addition to transportation costs, most filtration or thermal heating (to evaporate) systems require very high amounts of energy, which implies more cost and C02. Thus, new treatment systems will also ideally use less energy, and also less chemicals as these create another layer of environmental impact.
What are new cost effective systems that can replace existing treatment systems?
New water treatment systems will be smaller and more distributed, allowing for less transportation/storage costs and more recapture, recycle and reuse. Ideally, they will require less energy and chemicals, but will be better able to separate out certain target chemicals for reuse or customized disposal. Some of the most promising new technologies that meet these goals include forward osmosis, biomimicry-based enhanced evaporation, custom developed microbes, lower-energy ionization, and conventional disposal (such as reverse osmosis or crystallization/ZLD) that is powered by renewable clean energy.