Western teams up on unique wastewater project

The University of Western Ontario, City of London and local industry are partnering on what may be a global-leading site for water treatment technology development, commercialization, validation and testing.

The International Water Excellence Centre (IWEC) looks to be a globally unique facility to provide a wastewater treatment plant for full-scale development/testing of new technologies related to wastewater treatment, nutrient recovery and energy production from municipal waste. More crucially, it will shorten the time to market for these new technologies, and provide the critical link between the private and public sectors.

“Companies around the world will have access to this unique facility in order to test their own new technologies, particularly those using UV,” says Ted Hewitt, Western’s vice-president (research and international relations). “As for Western, the centre will be an advanced training centre for undergrads, grads and post docs and also facilitate collaborative research between our researchers and hi-tech companies.”

Today, new technologies are demonstrated on the scale of a few litres to a few thousand litres per day. However, many customers demand a scale closer to millions of litres per day. IWEC addresses this through its ability to demonstrate new technology at a flow rate of 90 million litres per day, equal to the waste stream of a medium-sized municipality.

“The partnership builds on our working relationship with the university which, in this case, will specifically provide facilities to help advance training and education in the area of municipal water/wastewater treatment,” says Pat McNally, general manager of Environmental & Engineering Services with the city. “We also hope by training people in London we will be better positioned to retain the brightest and best Western graduates to support the city’s needs as well as those of local manufacturers such as Trojan.”

McNally adds the project makes sense on the economic development front for the city and, with the support of Western and local industry, is a unique partnership with multiple benefits.

“From my department’s point of view we know research, training and the development of new technology will be important to us in meeting the operational and environmental challenges of the work we do,” says McNally, adding the project could have a larger impact across the region.

“There is a potential fit with other areas and activities in southwestern Ontario (the Walkerton Clean Water Centre, expertise at other universities) that would make this area a true centre of expertise when it comes to the care and use of this most precious resource – a fitting challenge for us to take on given our local stewardship of the Great Lakes.”

To be located at the Greenway Pollution Control Plant (Greenside Avenue in London), the $21.4 million project has requested $15.5 million from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), with the remaining $5.9 million which had been committed by London, Trojan Technologies and Western (in-kind contributions).

McNally says the design and construction is somewhat contingent on successfully receiving additional funding from senior levels of government.

“Both the city and Trojan have limited funding to invest at this time. We are hoping for leveraging through any one of a number of programs.”

The project will be completed in two phases. This first phase consists of the design and construction of the facility, while the second phase will make up the heart of the project – the advanced training and education facilities for engineers, technicians and operators, and advanced laboratory facilities.
“This centre affords us an opportunity to have access to advanced technology and work with and learn from advanced technology companies,” Hewitt says. “This is a unique opportunity for the city, companies like Trojan and Western to collaborate to create a unique test bed for UV technology.