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Researchers develop wastewater treatment system


TO build a healthy environment and help meet item 7 of the MDGs by 2015, a lecturer in the Department of Civil Engineering, Covenant University (CU), Ota, Ogun State, Dr David Olukanni and his team have come up with an optimized pilot-scale wastewater treatment system, a cost-effective waste management and treatment process for developing nations.

In this chat with Vanguard Learning, Olukanni who specialises in water resource and environmental engineering, says governments in developing nations must move from the level of policy, to implementation, noting that if Nigeria implements everything on paper till date, it will be a great nation.


The problem:

On realising that most of the water generated ends up as waste water, Dr Olukanni and his team deemed it necessary to device a means of treating the waste water to become useful once again. “We are looking at how we can generate wealth from waste; we are also looking at recycling, water supply, sanitation, hygiene, the impact of climate change on the environment and other environmental issues.

“We understand from literature that 80 per cent of the water generated goes as waste so it is that volume of waste water being generated that informs the design of the treatment system. Imagine having somebody in a particular environment turning the waste he is generating to energy for cooking. It makes life much easier,” said Olukanni.


According to Olukanni, in the area of waste water treatment, they designed a system using data obtained from the CU community. “We estimated that the water demand at CU is 136 litres per capita, per day because we have water in abundance and electricity supply is constant so we don’t have water problem.  Waste stabilization Pond (WSP) is one of the most popular wastewater treatment options because of its high efficiency and low cost.

“So having looked at it on a large scale, we tried to scale it down into a laboratory pilot scale. With that pilot scale, we ran some experiments at the initial stage. We fed the results we got into a simulation model and ran other scenarios to mimic what would be happening in the physical.”


“We were not totally satisfied with the results we got so we had to look for other treatment designs apart from the one we have been trying to mimic and that came in place of optimization. We were privileged to carry all of these designs overseas because we got some grants; we have Fulbright fellowships. From the results, we had different scenarios so we began to look at how we can get the best results with minimal cost. We selected the best result from what we had and then constructed a pilot scale reactor. We compared the result we got from the validation experiment with what the computer generated. Definitely, they were not the same but somehow, the pattern is the same with little variation. That told us that what we had done was valid and could be implemented on a large scale.“

What must be done:

Olukanni also said that the team is looking into water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH). “Every nation is trying to see how they can meet the item 7 of the MDGs target in 2015. It says that by 2015, the number of people that do not have access to potable water would have been halved. We are close to the target according to a recent GMP estimate. The challenge in developing countries is that we are still a bit far and we want to know the factors that are making us lag behind. He says they are working to see what the challenges are in CU and surrounding communities “so we know where to direct our research.”

Public awareness:

People need to know what to do and how would they know? The public and private sectors have roles to play. The National Orientation Agency could come in with a five-minute jingle in the area of environmental sanitation to make people conscious of keeping their environment clean, then they will get used it. They can tell the people to sort their wastes, gather them in a place and they will come and pick them up at intervals and pay the people some money. After a while, when they have adjusted and gotten used to keeping their environment clean, you can then stop the payment part.

“The government could also provide bins which could be colour-coded like red for organic, blue for inorganic etc. so that even if there is need for sorting, it will be minimal.”

He saaid they are also looking into recycling wastes. “If we have sorted all our waste from source, we will take the biodegradable materials to see how we can put them to something that will benefit the people.

“We are looking into the area of biogas and biomass. Here, we have the CU farm so we can think of compost manure from our waste products so instead of going to buy more fertilizers, we can get compost from our own waste; which means the waste is being recycled and is being useful.

Other treatment systems:

Apart from waste stabilization pond that we tried to develop, other treatment systems that are available are aerated lagoon, trickling filter, oxidation pond and in CU, we have what we call water sanitary bed and that was where we took the waste water sample we used in our experiment. So by and large, we are trying to make sure that the environment is safe for all.

Dangers of bad waste management:

“In Nigeria, we do not have engineered landfill. All we have are dumpsites and you see people go there to scavenge even to the detriment of their health.

The remaining wastes are burnt, polluting the environment and contributing to global warming. When rain falls or water passes through the dumpsites, the water can get into the underground water and pollute it.

The sooner we can recycle our waste, the better for us. We want to leave the realm of just going for conferences and presenting papers to products and that is why the university is working on setting up a vibrant waste management centre having recently signed an MoU with a German firm.”


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