Sep 11, 2007

British Columbia Will Fund Study on Using Sewage for Energy

The government in British Columbia, Canada, has started a study to see whether flushing a toilet can produce power, fuel and even clean water.

According to Times Colonist, the $100,000 project aims to be one of the most comprehensive government reports on the benefits of recovering resources from human waste during the sewage treatment process.

The study was commissioned by Ida Chong, minister of community services.

Though it is unappetizing to consider, raw sewage could bring forth many resources. Currently, San Diego uses secondary sewage treatment and disinfection to retrieve irrigation-quality water that is sold to commercial businesses like golf courses. Sweden mixes organic kitchen waste with sewage sludge to create power for municipal buses and some private vehicles.

The study is being done with the participation of the Capital Regional District, which last year embarked on a plan to build sewage treatment plants in Greater Victoria.

The plants involved with the study are estimated to cost $1.2 billion to build and treat the 129 million liters of raw waste currently discharged into the ocean every day.

The Times Colonist reports that the provincial and federal governments have agreed to cover two-thirds of the cost, while local municipalities will cover the rest.

The costs, however, do not include any resource-recovery technology, even though some plants might need to be expanded in the future for such things as water and energy recovery.

Advocates feel that resource recovery can help pay for itself in the long run, even though the technology tends to be new and expensive.

Dwayne Kalynchuk, CRD general manager of environmental services, reported to Times Colonist that the government’s report will be a "high-level study" that specifically looks at the feasibility and economics of investing in resource recovery.

The report should be finished in mid-October.