The royal treatment - Septech unveils new system

Septech presents its Underground Trickling Bio-Filter System

The systems are said to be ideal for palaces in remote locations in the Middle East.
The systems are said to be ideal for palaces in remote locations in the Middle East.
The majority of the equipment can be located underground.
The majority of the equipment can be located underground.
The system requires little or no maintenance.
The system requires little or no maintenance.

Septech presents its Underground Trickling Bio-Filter System at Al Khawaneej Palace in the UAE.

If you own a palace, chances are your problems are few and far between. However, for even the most regal of homeowners, the issue of effective sewage recycling can be a troubling one. Palaces in the Middle East are usually huge buildings which are for the majority of the time unoccupied, and can be found in remote locations.

Palaces and huge residences in the Middle East are not in a position where they can connect to a main sewer network, and to do so would be too expensive, given the rarity of their use. Septech took on the problem with its Underground Trickling Bio-Filter System concept.

In the latest installation of this system, at Al Khawaneej Palace, the owners are enjoying a number of benefits. When compared to other systems which treat the same volumes of wastewater, the system consumes 50% less power than an extended aeration treatment process, an MBR plant or a traditional sequencing batch reactor processing plant.

“This whole system operates off a 1.5kw pump, so you don’t even need power, you can just put in a small solar panel and run off solar,” states David Heffernan, CEO of Septech.

The system itself is extremely simple, as Heffernan explains. ”Everything comes in by gravity, and there is no need for pumps - pump stations cost more than this system. In a biological process, there is 300mg of bod biochemical oxygen demand, and to get a reduction of that you have anaerobic digestion. So if you are going to do this with this type of system, you will have a 20% reduction of your BOD.”

The system can be installed incredibly quickly as there is no need for above ground site work for the erection of the tanks and treatment processes. Installation can be completed in as little amount of time as two weeks.

“We did CityCentre in Ajman and we did that job in 15 days. Our nearest competitor was about eight months to a year. We offer a turnkey solution, we come here, we excavate, these are pre engineered tanks, they are our own designs and one piece, so we cast them upside down, jack them up in moulds and spin them round so they are one piece. There is no infiltration of water either in or out,” reveals Heffernan.

The plant is also a hidden facility, meaning it can be installed in areas which need to remain aesthetically pleasing – a useful attribute in a palace. Maintenance for the system is minimal, as Heffernan describes.

“There is no mechanical process, we have two pumps; a duty and stand by and they are cyclic changeovers so you don’t have motors that burn out. So if something goes wrong with the system, you can fix it and the system won’t stop,” comments Heffernan.

“You have the fixed film, the biomass grows on the fixed film and that is what absorbs the pollutants out of the wastewater. It grows on it so the older the system gets, the better the system works. With fixed film it is a much better process, you don’t have to worry about fluctuation, if you had a party for 1000 people it would still work,” Heffernan adds.

A sudden spike in the amount of people using a sewage filtration system can present challenges to most products. A conventional system which is designed for everyday traffic will struggle to operate when the usage becomes significantly higher.

These sudden increases can result in untreated effluent being discharged from the plant. In the underground trickling bio-filter system, the activated sludge is recycled within its process, keeping the system in a ready state for optimal processing during both peaks and troughs in usage.

“This house has no flow, if it was any other system it would fail. Even if there is zero flow, this will always work. Nearly every ruler in the Western regions and Abu Dhabi have these installed in their palaces. Studies have been done on these and what they have realised is they have minimum fuss, you don’t need any specialised engineering people and we can train people to use it, if they don’t want our people to do it,” explains Heffernan.

Heffernan also believes there is little to be gained from hooking up a building as remote as the Al Khawaneej Palace up to a central treatment plant.

“It costs so much less for this than it does to put in a network. There is no point in pumping all the water to a central treatment plant just to redistribute it back to the gardens and common areas. So in any area where it is not next to a main network, you would be mad not to put in a small decentralised system.

And we have clients in the UAE who have put them in for 48 villas and things like that and they just gravity feed to it. So you get rid of the mechanical functions and eliminate the wear and tear issues,” he affirms.

The final product which is obtained from the system is ideal for watering and irrigation purposes. The process of the system includes post-treatment chlorination for the safe storage and re-use of the clear effluent in greening projects.

“In the UAE, the water standards are probably one of the more stringent in the world, which a lot of people don’t seem to realise. In Europe its 20:30 BOD in suspended solids, here it’s below 10:10. For irrigating purposes, which this is for, this is more than sufficient, it’s actually too much,” opines Heffernan.

The system seems to have few flaws, and in a building such as a remotely located palace, it is a perfect match. Although it is not suitable for all uses, and Septech doesn’t claim it is, it seems this plant is an extremely well suited horse, for what must be a highly profitable course.

“Why would anyone look at using a more expensive solution if you had the available area? There is no pre-treatment, we need the sewage in there and we are recycling it back through the system.

“Having no noise, below ground, you have no issues and we are seeing a growing trend, every developer wants to put this in, concludes Heffernan.

The UTB system: advantages

  • Consumes less power
  • Can be run off solar power
  • No above site works required
  • Can cope with changes in population
  • Recycles activated sludge within its own process
  • Final product ideal for irrigation and watering process


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