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Israeli sewage treatment technology – effective, cheap
By EHUD ZION WALDOKS
13/01/2011
Mapal Green Energy has developed a way to meet stricter requirements without building a whole new facility, stopping current processes.
 
Mapal Green Energy has seen its business surge over the past several months as kibbutzim and local authorities start figuring out how to meet new sewage treatment regulations set down by the Inbar Committee.

The stricter regulations mean that waste treatment centers will have to be upgraded.

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Mapal Green Energy, based in Nesher near Haifa, has developed a way to meet those stricter requirements without building a whole new facility or even stopping the current facility’s processes, Ze’ev Fisher, Mapal’s vice president for business development and international marketing, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. Moreover, their technology can produce 70- 80 percent savings in energy and money on the most expensive part of the process.

Sewage treatment is an environmental issue of utmost importance. Improper disposal of sewage pollutes streams, rivers and the sea. In fact, nearly all of Israel’s streams and rivers are polluted and some – such as the Yarkon and the Kishon – have been undergoing rehabilitation for decades.

Even if sewage waste water is not reused for agriculture, it still has to be treated before it can be released into a stream. Israel has become the world leader in reusing sewage for agriculture, with better than 70% being treated for that purpose. Nevertheless, significant amounts were treated to lower levels that the Inbar Committee decided were insufficient.

Now, kibbutzim and local authorities are faced with two options: Build a new facility with a concrete treatment pool, or install Mapal’s technology, Fisher said.

Sewage is treated by putting the raw material through several pools. In the first pool, particles are separated out either by falling to the bottom of the pool or by filters. In the second phase, the water is pumped into another pool or lagoon where specially introduced bacteria eat the pollutants and clean up the water.

Those bacteria need high levels of oxygen to work effectively. The previous technology, still in use in many places around the country, consists of fans sunk into the water that spray the water into the air to achieve the necessary oxygen mix. The problem with the fans is twofold: first, they’re heavily energy intensive, and, second, they’re prone to breaking down.

About 10 to 15 years ago, a technology was developed to put diffusers on the bottom of the pools, which released hundreds of millions of tiny air bubbles that then burst and mix with the water. That technology is still highly effective, but it requires a concrete pool, Fisher said.

Enter Mapal. It has developed a diffuser that stays on the surface of the water and shoots air bubbles down into the pool.

“What that means is that a kibbutz that has a dug out pool, that’s not made of concrete, can install our diffusers rather than having to build a new pool. A new pool costs 70-80% more than our technology,” Fisher told the Post.

Moreover, Mapal’s system increases the effectiveness of the bacteria far more than the fans and better than the bottom-mounted diffusers – so much so that it meets the Inbar Committee criteria. Fisher said the company had received approval in principle from the Environmental Protection and Health ministries that its technology did indeed meet the criteria, although, he hastened to add, each pool would need its own permit.

“Part of the problem with the fans was that intensive maintenance was required and when the fans break, and they did, then no treatment was occurring,” he said.

Sales have jumped to kibbutzim and the company has sold 10 systems in recent months.

Mapal has 20 systems already installed in Israel and abroad. Its first system was installed in 2001 at Kibbutz Yagur and has been running continuously ever since.

Another advantage of the Mapal system, according to Fisher, is that it can be installed while the waste treatment plant continues to operate.

“If a waste treatment center has to shut down to upgrade, then that means raw sewage is being released, and that can’t happen,” he said. Mapal’s system doesn’t require a shutdown and can be used to upgrade a major municipal treatment plant.

“We are in advanced negotiations with a South African treatment plant that processes 200,000 cubic meters of sewage a day. By comparison, the Shafdan [Water Treatment Plant in Rishon Lezion, Israel’s largest, which the Mekorot national water company operates on behalf of the Dan Regional Sewerage Board], processes 300,000 cubic meters a day. They can’t stop operations, but we can upgrade them live,” Fisher said.

Mapal has also sold systems in South America and Angola. They’ve had interest from the UK as well.

Closer to home, a month ago, Mapal was chosen by an Italian-Palestinian-Israeli joint initiative to undertake a pilot project in the Palestinian village of Uja. Sewage treatment in the Palestinian Authority is far behind Israel’s and poses a serious contamination threat to the mountain aquifer, which runs under the West Bank, and already pollutes Israeli streams as the sewage flows across the Green Line.

“We’re not reinventing the wheel here. We just developed a technology that’s more effective and more efficient,” Fisher said.

Mapal has also developed a mobile unit that can be used for pinpoint applications to increase bacteria activity such as after a spill. Serbia has expressed interest in buying such a unit, but, so far, the Israeli government has not, Fisher said.
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