Treating water off the grid

Published on November 9, 2014

Increased global demand, dwindling supply and climate instability have made water the preeminent commodity of the 21st century.

Its optimal use is a critical challenge for communities around the world, demanding innovation in wastewater treatment, desalination and agriculture.

Currently, three per cent of all North American electricity is devoted to wastewater treatment. New Environment Canada wastewater effluent regulations in 2020 will require additional upgrades and resources, some in remote locations without the capacity for expensive infrastructure.

Island Water Technologies (IWT), in Montague has launched a revolutionary solution to this dilemma with the world’s first self-powered wastewater treatment system designed to operate off the electrical grid. Combining cutting-edge biotechnology, electrical engineering, and precision manufacturing, its modular, energy-independent REGEN™ system redefines cost-effective, decentralized wastewater treatment.

Dr. Patrick Kiely, IWT CEO and co-founder, is mindful of its benefits in remote Canadian locations.

“In Nunavut, small, isolated villages of 200 to 1500 people have limited infrastructure budgets,” he said. “They ship in diesel once a year at great expense and use it to run everything. A renewable, self-powered wastewater system solves a multitude of problems.”

Other target markets include military and humanitarian organizations directing disaster relief and refugee settlements, remote rural communities, golf courses and agricultural and mining operations.

Kiely, a Ph.D. in microbiology from University College Cork with Penn State University post-doctoral studies in environmental engineering, had already developed significant innovations in his field, including water treatment solutions for NASA’s international space station.

With a Canadian wife and son, his business and research efforts are now focused in P.E.I. and Ottawa, with thriving research relationships with Carleton and Dalhousie universities, and the University of Illinois.

Prof. Rob Jamieson, Dalhousie’s Canada Research Chair in Cold Regions Ecological Engineering, was instrumental in showcasing IWT’s REGEN™ system at the University’s Bio-Environmental Engineering Centre in Truro, N.S.

“There are urgent environmental issues in Canada, and even major cities such as St. John’s, Halifax, and Victoria have had to redefine their wastewater platforms recently,” he says.

“The REGEN™ installation uses less energy and plastic polymer materials to accelerate bacterial growth and improve wastewater treatment with the potential to be significantly more energy efficient than traditional systems.”

Jason Aspin, IWT co-founder and CEO of Aspin Kemp & Associates, which recently secured an $80 million GE contract to provide electrical components for drilling ships, is equally enthusiastic about the potential of the REGEN™ system.

Intent on making Montague, P.E.I., a centre of excellence in marine and offshore technologies, he is partnering with IWT to design, manufacture, and assemble the REGEN™ modules in his Montague and Poole’s Corner facilities.

An angel investor in the enterprise, he notes “Not only is REGEN™ environmentally sustainable and a good engineering solution, it makes economic sense.”

Patrick Kiely concurs.

“Water scarcity is an increasing global issue. It’s time to recognize how this unique technology — designed, developed, and manufactured in P.E.I. — offers a solution for the world.”

Wastewater treatment system:

Island Water Technologies’ REGEN™ wastewater treatment system integrates innovation in renewable power and wastewater treatment.

It provides product offerings for primary and secondary treatment, as well as upgrades and additions to existing systems.

IWT performs septic system consultations as designers and assessors, and can customize its technology to end-user requirements. Primary treatment tanks can be buried or stored in aboveground cargo containers.

Additional modular units can be added to meet specific needs or added as wastewater flow increases. Plug-and-play integration with existing infrastructure is possible, including existing holding tanks and lagoons.

The technology can be integrated with more traditional septic systems for enhanced performance. The REGEN™ system is designed from the ground up to require low-energy wastewater treatment.

The integrated power management system allows for a steady signal input with incoming power from solar panels, battery storage, or any additional external power sources. Self-powered operation allows for installation independent of electrical grid connection if required, reducing on-site capital costs.

The self-contained system requires minimal site disturbance and footprint. Remote notifications can be sent via landline or cellphone. Performance parameter monitoring can be achieved via the internet, landline, or cellphone network.

This system has been designed to minimize moving parts and complexity, while maximizing efficiency. It achieves wastewater treatment at a minimal energy cost while reducing required operation and maintenance.