Phosphorous recycling facility looks set for the Netherlands

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AMSTERDAM, the Netherlands, Dec. 5, 2011 – Following an agreement with one of England’s largest water utilities, it looks likely that Canadian company Ostara Nutrient Recovery Technologies will implement its second European facility in the Netherlands, Water & Wastewater International magazine (WWi) has learned.

Speaking exclusively to WWi, US environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr, who is on the board of directors for the Canadian firm, said: “We are in talks with various groups in the Netherlands and we are very confident we’ll be able to work with at least one of those groups to arrange an installation in the next year or so.”

Kennedy went onto say that there is a lot of potential for phosphorous recovery in “Germany, the Baltic States and also Scandinavia”.

The firm announced an agreement last year with Thames Water to deliver a nutrient recovery facility in London, and has three commercial facilities already operating in Oregon, Virginia and Pennsylvania. It also has plans to deliver a second facility in Oregon and a first in Saskatoon, Canada (see WWi story) next year.

The technology involves extracting struvite – a mineral deposit formed when dissolved nutrients combine with magnesium – from wastewater. A chemical precipitation process in a fluidised bed reactor then allows for crystralised pellets to be harvested, dried and then sold as a slow-release fertiliser.

In a wide ranging interview discussing topics such as wastewater from gas fracking to water quality in the US, Kennedy discussed the challenges with current phosphorous mining processes.

He said: “Phosphorous is as important as oil. Oil you can replace but it’s very difficult to replace phosphorous in food production. You get the same geo-political pressures and same economic pressures that are familiar with OPEC, where you have 12 nations controlling 70% of the oil in the world. Around three quarters of the phosphorous on earth is controlled by Morocco and Western Sahara.”

Kennedy, who is also president of the Waterkeeper Alliance and chief prosecuting attorney for the Hudson Riverkeeper, said he has brought lawsuits against many wastewater treatment plants in the past 27 years, many with phosphorous and struvite build up problems.

Kennedy added that 90% of mined phosphorous supplies are diverted to agricultural use as a fertiliser, yet “80% of that runs off so it’s a very wasteful use of the resource. It either becomes bound in the soil or it leaches and runs off into the local waterways, usually most of it during the first rainstorm.”

- The full version of the interview with Robert F. Kennedy Jr will appear in the December-January issue of WWi magazine. To subscribe for a free copy, please click here.

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