Irish Water, working in partnership with Carlow County Council, has completed works to install Sludge Drying Reed Beds (SDRB) at five wastewater treatment plants in Carlow.
These innovative and environmentally friendly projects are part of an €800,000 pilot programme completed across Carlow, with reed beds constructed at the wastewater treatment plants in Clonegal, Fenagh, Ballon, Myshall and Raheendoran.
The project has been delivered by Glan Agua Ltd. in collaboration with Wild Goose Enviro Ltd.
The Sludge Drying Reed Bed is based on a natural treatment process in which the reeds system naturally treats the sludge, and provides a sustainable and cost-effective solution for the long term treatment of wastewater sludge.
The daily operation and maintenance of the systems will be minimal, requiring only the beds to be emptied once every 10 years.
The process reduces transport movements and emissions, while also substantially reducing costs associated with the treatment process.
Speaking about the project, Irish Water’s Program Manager, Claire Lyons said: "We are delighted to have completed these works in Carlow that allow us to become more sustainable and environmentally friendly through the way we treat our wastewater and the sludge that is produced as a part of that.
"These works are a pilot programme so we will monitor the results and progress to see if it is as viable as we expect and hope it to be. This is a very positive day for these villages in Carlow."
Each of the Sludge Drying Reed Beds are appropriately sized to cater for growth and development of each of the villages and are designed and constructed within the footprint of each of the wastewater treatment sites.
Also as part of the construction of the Reed Beds, Irish Water installed additional pipework and infrastructure, planted the Common Reeds (Phragmites Australis) in order to facilitate the natural treatment of the liquid sludge.
There will be a 12 month performance period to establish the appropriate loading rate for the sludge at each site.
The benefits of the Reed Beds are clearly evident as they significantly reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions associated with the traditional wastewater treatment process and will also enhance biodiversity at the sites through habitat creation.
This will result in an energy reduction of up to 35,381 KWh per year and reducing carbon emissions by up to 15 tonnes. In addition, it will reduce the operational costs significantly as the Beds are only required to be emptied once every decade.
Following the successful implementation of this sustainable and innovative pilot programme, Irish Water has plans to implement similar programmes at wastewater treatment plants across the country.
Irish Water has identified over forty similar sites identified that would be suitable for Sludge Drying Reed Beds.