Wastewater treatment facilities end up dumping a lot of mud that is extracted from the in-flowing water. And, like everything else, that mud takes up space. Space that could be used for other things, even at the dumping yards. But researchers from the Rovira i Virgili University (URV) have suggested, and successfully shown, that the waste mud doesn’t need to be taken to a dumping ground; rather, it can be used as fuel.
This is great news for industries that are trying to comply with the Kyoto Protocol and cut CO2 emissions. It is also good news in a world that is trying to shake itself free of the addictions to traditional oils and coals.
The scientists carried out the first study into this method of using solid waste from wastewater facilities as fuel at a cement plant in Vallcarca (Catalonia), which has been producing cement for more than 100 years. Their testing confirmed that it is “the best option for getting rid of mud that would have had to be dumped elsewhere, while also powering the plant.”
So in a sense, they are growing two trees from one seed. “As this mud is already waste, burning it does not enter into the atmospheric CO2 emissions assigned to each country under the Kyoto Protocol”, José Luis Domingo, lead author of the study and director of the Toxicology and Environmental Health Laboratory at the URV, said.
The cement industry is one of the leaders in CO2 emissions (as well as emissions of dioxins, furans and heavy metals); and the researchers say that switching to the waste mud would help the industry cut down on pollution dramatically.
The Catalan plant, at which the study was done, has now substituted 20% of its fossil fuel energy for the fuel from waste water treatment plant mud. That 20% has led to a 140,000 tonne reduction in CO2 emissions between 2003 and 2006, which has impacts on both the environment and the health of people living near the plant. With the decrease in pollution, especially CO2, the potential deaths from exposure to chemical pollutants will have been reduced greatly. The study shows that using this green fuel would reduce the cancer rate by 4.56 per million inhabitants, which is good news for more than just the cement industry.
However, the researchers are hesitant to say that using the mud will be beneficial for all cement plants, claiming that it is important that each plant carry out its own studies. However, if anything can be gleaned from this, it is that using mud from waste water treatment plants in cement factories is “a very good solution.”
Source: Science Daily
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