A strong partner for the Flemish Region, the Northern part of Belgium Aquafin was established by the Flemish Region in 1990, for the purpose of expanding, operating and pre-financing the wastewater treatment infrastructure in Flanders. The Flemish Environmental Holding is the sole shareholder in Aquafin.Aquafin collects household wastewater from the municipal sewers in collector sewers and transports it to wastewater treatment plants, where it is treated in accordance with European and Flemish standards
Over a period of twenty years, the company evolved from a new player in the sector into a many-faceted partner for all the actors involved in the implementation of an integrated water policy in Flanders. Our strength is unmistakeably in the combination of vision, expansion and management of the wastewater treatment infrastructure. The feedback between each of the steps makes it possible to have an integrated vision with respect to water treatment. The Flemish Region, the municipalities and the drinking water companies appreciate our technical expertise, our knowledge of the area, and our innovative attitude. Aquafin is also a much sought after partner in research projects, both in Belgium and abroad, which are aimed at implementing the European Water framework directive.
Commercial services for Flemish municipalities
Aquafin provides services for the expansion and management of the municipal sewage system as well. A city or municipality may choose to have a long-term partnership by means of a concession, or it can allocate ad-hoc tasks to Aquafin. Besides this there is the possibility of joining in with the joint ventures that Aquafin has concluded with the water companies AWW and TMVW (rio-link), VMW (RioAct and Rio-P) and Vivaqua. There are several other players active on the municipal market, but Aquafin has the largest market share counting municipalties and people equivalents.
Commercial services through daughter company Aquaplus NV
The Flemish government encourages Aquafin to market the company’s knowhow and experience abroad. Therefore, our daughter company Aquaplus (100% subsidiary) was founded as an international contracting entity for Aquafin’s expertise.
Aquafin is continuously searching for new developments for the collection and treatment of domestic wastewater and the processing of sludge.
We conduct further research and product development in ten knowledge areas: biological wastewater treatment, physico-chemical treatment techniques, sludge management, membrane technology, reuse, ‘green’ technology, modelling, measurement and control,technology, integrated water management and the operational management of sewer assets.
Currently we participate in the following European projects: INNERS, OpenMi-life, Neptune, Amedeus, MBR-TRAIN and Reclaim Water.
Under the auspices of the International Water Association, we also organised the 6th IWa Specialist Conference on Wastewater Reclamation and Reuse.
Computer models and simulations with different types of weather can expose problems of a sewerage system. Modelling of removal efficiencies and discharge of loads from sewers and wastewater treatment plants are used to take measures to avoid flooding and improve the quality of surface waters.
Failure of urban underground networks for water supply, sanitation or storm drainage, can have very serious impacts on the urban environment and the population. Sustainability of assets in terms of structural integrity, hydraulic performance and environmental impact becomes more and more important. Aquafin is investigating ways for the appropriate management of its underground assets (ie. renovation, monitoring, maintenance, investments). The major goal is to keep the sewerage in the best possible condition and at the same time to make significant economic savings.
Water is a precious good. To date there is a growing interest in the reuse of recycled water, generally limited to non-potable use). Aquafin executes comparative and pilot research on advanced wastewater treatment technologies, including membrane filtration (MBR and tertiary), sand filtration, reverse osmosis and ozonation. Today wastewater treatment plant effluent is mainly reused as cooling water or for tank cleaning. In one application the effluent of a sewage treatmen plant is upgraded to form water of a higher quality which is used for recharging a drinking water aquifer in the dune water catchment of a drinking water company.
Aquafin’s know-how and experience are also recognised across Europe. We are a partner in several EU financed research projects.
INNERS is short for Innovative Energy Recovery Strategies in the urban water cycle. It is a project supported European Regional Development Fund through the interreg IVb transnational cooperation programme. INNERS aims at improving the energy consumption and balance in the urban water cycle. The ultimate aim is to devise an urban water cycle that will be energy neutral or even an energy producer.
The urban water cycle is regarded as a whole. Tools for the quantification of energy consumption will be made within the INNERS consortium. Demonstration projects for anammox, a heat distribution system, sewerage heat recovery, an online energy optimization system for wwtp’s, etc. will be executed by the different partners. Inventories and an energy balance assessment tool will support politicians and companies to improve the energy consumption in the urban water cycle.
Aquafin will apply amongst others its diverse expertise on modeling. The unified approach of quantifying
- the net energetic effect of heat recovery by means of heat pumps in sewerage systems
- the effect on waste water treatment
- the environmental impact through life cycle assessment
should result in guidelines for installing heat pumps in sewers. These guidelines should provide a sound basis to provide the maximum energy recovery from sewerage at the lowest environmental impact and negligible impact on waste water treatment.
OpenMI-Life is a project supported by the European Commission under the Life Programme. It aims at demonstrating the potential of the OpenMI standard for linking models at river basin scale. T
he project's rationale lies in the Water Framework Directive, which demands an integrated approach to water management.This requires an ability to predict how catchment processes will interact. In most contexts, it is not feasible to build a single predictive model that adequately represents all the processes. Therefore, a means of linking models of individual processes is required.The FP5 HarmonIT project's innovative and acclaimed solution, the Open Modelling Interface and Environment (OpenMI) met this need by simplifying the linking of hydrology related models. Its establishment will support and assist the strategic planning and integrated catchment management.
The OpenMI-Life project has a number of demonstration cases within the river basins of the Scheldt and the Pinios (Greece). Aquafin's contribution in these demonstration cases is to link up the sewer model of the drainage area of Leuven with the Dijle river model from VMM's Water Division.
For more information about the OpenMI in general and the OpenMI Association see http://www.openmi.org.
NEPTUNE is short for New Sustainable Concepts and Processes for Optimization and Upgrading Municipal Wastewater and Sludge Treatment. This research project is focusing on technology solutions allowing to meet present and future standards via
- upgrading of existing municipal infrastructure
- new control strategies with online sensors
- effluent upgrading with oxidation, activated carbon or wetland treatment
- safe sludge processing and reuse
- innovative and new techniques
- fuel cell applications
- new oxidation processes
- production of polymer and phosphate from sludge
By including pathogens and ecotoxicity aspects into life cycle assessment studies (LCA), the project is helping to improve the comparability of various technical options and propose a suitability ranking.
Wastewater treatment plants are the major pollutant point source for surface water, and consequently impact on the new focus legislated by the Water framework directive. The emerging interest on organic (eco-)toxic compounds requires characterizing treated effluent and treatment technologies concerning ecotoxicologic aspects and micropollutants. NEPTUNE is contributing to this discussion by ecotoxicity assessment and micropollutant fate studies.
By directly involving European players of the water management sector, the generated know-how is expected to contribute to the export-oriented knowledge based EU eco-industry. Further NEPTUNE will contribute to sustainable growth in the EU by helping to remove the barriers faced by new environmentally friendly integrated solutions. It will do so by covering knowledge gaps of new solutions and by evidencing pros and cons of technologic alternatives through direct comparison.
Over the past decade, membrane bioreactors have been increasingly implemented to purify municipal wastewater. However, even with submerged membranes, which offer the lowest costs, the MBR technology remains in most cases more expensive than conventional processes. In addition, the European municipal MBR market is to date a duopoly of two non-European producers, despite many initiatives to develop local MBR filtration systems.
The proposed AMEDEUS research project aims at tackling both issues, accelerating the development of competitive European MBR filtration technologies, as well as increasing acceptance of the MBR process through decreased capital and operation costs.
The project will target the two markets for MBR technology in Europe: the construction of small plants (semi-central, 50 to 2,000 PE, standardized and autonomous), and the medium-size plants (central, up to 100.000 PE) for plant upgrade.
Technological development of new MBR systems will be fostered by a consortium composed of 12 partners, of which five SMEs proposing novel concepts of low-cost and high-performance filtration systems. Two end-users, three non-profit institutions and two universities, all of them well versed in R&D in the MBR field, will investigate solutions to reduce operation costs such as fouling control, membrane cleaning optimisation, aeration decrease, or optimise capital costs through improved implementation of membrane bioreactor process. Furthermore, an analysis of the potential for standardisation will be performed, and a technology transfer towards Southern and Eastern Europe will be organised in order to facilitate the penetration of these new markets.
AMEDEUS will achieve concrete and realistic technological breakthroughs for the MBR technology, and improve the current process engineering and operation practices. It will improve the competitiveness of the MBR European market and render common this high-tech process for municipal wastewater treatment.
The research project MBR-TRAIN deals with process optimisation and fouling control in membrane bioreactors for waste water treatment. Membrane bioreactors (MBRs) which combine biological treatment with a membrane separation step are among the most promising emerging technologies in the wastewater treatment sector. As membrane fouling has been identified as a major barrier to sustainable MBR application, MBR-TRAIN undertakes dedicated efforts to characterise and investigate both biological and physico-technical aspects of this phenomenon and to develop strategies to control it.
MBR-TRAIN is a Marie-Curie host fellowship for early stage research training. In line with the aims of Marie-Curie actions, its purpose is to educate young scientist and to prepare and encourage them to take up a research career.
Developing MBR technology is an interdisciplinary task. Understanding the mutual interactions between biological system and membrane separation requires knowledge in a combination of fields as diverse as analytical chemistry, microbiology, polymer and surface science, fluid dynamics, systems technology, civil and chemical engineering. Hence the consortium of MBR TRAIN comprises 10 partners from the water-industry, research institutes and universities across Europe representing a cross-section of relevant disciplines, sectors and regions.
Due to its consortium composition, the MBR-TRAIN project provides an ideal framework for young researchers to prepare for future assignments in intersectorial tasks pursuing a research career in both academic institutions and industrial enterprises.
The aim of this project is to develop hazard mitigation technologies for water reclamation providing safe and cost effective routes for artificial groundwater recharge. Different treatment applications will be assessed in terms of behaviour of key microbial and chemical contaminants.
The data basis of the Reclaim Water project is generated from a set of case studies, amongst which there is the Torreele treatment plant in Wulpen. This facility, owned by the drinking water company IWVA, treats the effluent from the communal wastewater treatment plant of Wulpen by means of ultrafiltration and reverse osmosis. The water is then recharged in the dune area of St-André and used for drinking water production.
In Reclaim Water, Aquafin supervises the case study on the Torreele treatment plant. Furthermore, Aquafin will evaluate several technologies for treatment of the brines from reverse osmosis. We are also involved in the evaluation of a HACCP-procedure for wastewater reclamation and re-use applications.