November's top stories: BHP Billiton to clean-up river, shockwave for desalination

BHP Billiton to clean-up river for impending $5.24bn lawsuit in Brazil, GE and US DOE to check feasibility of new desalination technology while research uses shockwave for desalination. Water-technology wraps-up the key headlines from November 2015.

Siemens water treatment

BHP Billiton commits to river clean-up over looming $5.24bn lawsuit in Brazil

Australia-based mining giant BHP Billiton has renewed its commitment for a thorough cleanup of the Rio Doce river in Brazil, after the federal and state governments decided to sue the owners of the Samarco iron ore mine for R$20bn ($5.24bn).

According to Brazil Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira, the lawsuit is likely to be filed today. BHP and Vale hold an equal interest in Samarco, the state of Minas Gerais.

Vale sustainability chief Vania Somavilla was cited by Reuters as saying that the dam burst on 5 November affected the waters of the Rio Doce river, causing its arsenic levels to rise above legally permissible limits.

GE and US DoE collaborate to check feasibility of new water desalination technology

GE 3D rotor

US Department of Energy (DoE) has awarded a program to General Electric (GE) to test a water desalination technology that can produce clean water at low cost.

The research, which is being carried out at GE's Global Research Center in Upstate New York, utilises the technology giant's expertise for steam turbine, oil and gas compressors, 3D printing and water processing solutions.

The program aims to put desalination 'on ice' and will design an innovative process to compress, stream and cool air, salt and ice mixture that separates salt from ice.

Agriculture Department to offer $344m for water and wastewater projects in US

US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced a $30m investment for quality improvements in Mississippi River Basin and allowed loans and grants of $314m for water and wastewater infrastructure improvements in rural communities.

The agency intends to spend $30m this year through its Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for 33 new projects and 40 existing projects to improve water quality in high priority watersheds in the Mississippi River Basin.

The USDA supported projects under NRCS' Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI) are aimed at bringing down the nutrient and sediment losses to water which gradually flows into the Gulf of Mexico.

Siemens to support power production at Austrian wastewater treatment plant

Siemens is supplying energy equipment to the chief sewage treatment facility at Simmering in the city of Vienna, Austria.

The company will deliver control, measuring, analytical and power distribution systems for the Ebswien main sewage plant, along with low-voltage and medium-voltage switchgear.

Part E_OS 2020 (Energy_Optimization Sludge Treatment) environmental project in the Austrian city, the order is worth €24m.

Masdar turns four desalination pilot projects operational in Abu Dhabi

Sidem veolia masdar desalination

Four technology firms, Abengoa, Suez Environnement, Veolia and Trevi Systems, have inaugurated small-scale experimental desalination facilities for Masdar in Abu Dhabi to meet the growing potable water demands in UAE.

The desalination plants are expected to be energy efficient and have been developed in Masdar's Al Ghantoot pilot facility.

Primarily based on renewable energy technology, the plants have a target of using less than 3.6 kWh/m3 of water production.

Researchers in US develop new desalination method using shockwave


Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US have developed a new desalination method that uses an electrically driven shockwave to separate salt from water.

The shockwave within a stream of flowing water pushes ions in the salty water and fresh water apart and does not separate ions or water molecules with filters unlike traditional desalination systems.

The new method, called shock electrodialysis, allows water to flow through a porous material made of tiny glass particles, called a frit. The porous material is squeezed between membranes or electrodes.

Qatar commissions one desalination project and starts construction for the next


Qatar Electricity & Water (QEWC) has officially broken grounds for the construction of the Ras Abu Fontas (RAF) A3 desalination plant at Ras Abu Fontas, near Al Wakra.

Mitsubishi and Toyo Thai Corporation Public Company (TTCL) have been awarded the full engineering, procurement, construction (EPC) contract for the project which will be based on reverse osmosis technology.

Works for the facility is already underway, for which Mitsubishi has, in turn, awarded the design and construction of the desalination units to Spain-based Acciona Agua.

Naturally occurring bacteria can ensure nitrogen removal from ground water, says research

Anammox Research Site on Cape Cod

Researchers at US Geological Survey (USGS) have indicated that naturally occurring bacteria can be used for removing nitrogen content from ground water sources following a study on anammox activity.

Anammox, which is an abbreviated form for anaerobic ammonium oxidation, is a process involving naturally occurring bacteria.

Besides ensuring removal of ammonium, bacteria can also lessen nitrogen oxides (such as nitrate and nitrite) in groundwater resources and then, combine the two to produce harmless nitrogen gas.