Northern Territory University

On-site Neutralization of Laboratory Wastewater: Northern Territory University


Courtesy of Northern Territory University

 The Northern Territory University’s Faculty of Science have designed and installed a ‘Neutralization Pit’ as their ‘cleaner production initiative. The primary objectives of the Northern Territory University adopting this form of treatment for the chemical wastewater generated by the Faculty of Science was to:
  1. Prevent pollution and eutrophication of the receiving Darwin watercourses as untreated waste water particularly water containing chemical wastewater compounds can cause significant environmental and health/safety problems or, alternatively
  2. Reduce the University‘s financial costs associated with waste treatment. Specifically the neutralization system eliminates the need for the employment of waste contractors to treat and dispose of the generated wastewater.

The Neutralization System consists of a series of reaction filter chambers, which raise the pH of their industrial standard wastewater prior to discharge to sewer. The quantity of the wastewater is significant and is generated from the 11 laboratories contained with the Faculty of Science. The neutralization system treats on a daily basis alkaline and acid waste streams, stabilizes BOD and settles heavy metals. The adoption of the neutralization pit, which was modified and designed to fulfil the needs of the Faculty of Science, provides the best possible form of wastewater disposal and treatment in terms of the environment and cost. The payback period for the initial outlay of $9000-00 was approximately 3 years.


The Northern Territory University was established in Darwin on 1 January 1989 through the amalgamation of the University College of Northern Territory and the Darwin Institute of Technology. The University offers both higher education and vocational education and training to meet its first priority of providing for the full spectrum of the tertiary education and research needs of the Northern Territory. The Faculty of Science provides for both Undergraduate and Postgraduate Awards in areas such as Aquaculture, Environmental Biology, Biochemistry and Geographic Information.

The Process

The Faculty of Science through their research activities and their Award Programs produce a significant quantity of chemical wastewater. Prior to the adoption of their cleaner production initiative, the chemical wastewater was collected, treated and disposed of by a waste contract service. Given the significant quantities of wastewater produced, this option for collection and disposal proved to be extremely costly. Direct discharge to sewer provides the most economically viable option for the laboratory wastewater of an acceptable of standard. Despite the Faculty of Science’s wastewater undergoing minimal pre-treatment within the laboratories prior to disposal it did not attain the acceptable pH standard for direct discharge to the Power and Water Authority (PAWA) sewer. 

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