Mayglothling’s ground-breaking waste processing is a tale of three ecosystems; yours, ours and nature’s. It is also a tale of the passion and enthusiasm that Mayglothling and its employees have for the environmental aspects of our work.
There is no escaping the fact that most of the waste comes from us. Turning this waste into something that can go back into the environment is a complex process, involving bugs, friendly bacteria, and some fascinating science, to us at least.
We spoke to Mike Attwood, Mayglothling’s Treatment Plant Manager, to tell us more: The various processes we use are not necessarily unique, but the combination of processes is fairly unusual, so when many people who are familiar with our industry visit our site for the first time, they’re impressed by the amount of process activity that we are undertaking. So what are these processes…
The first phase is to separate the liquid and the solid, both of which are treated individually to reduce the amount of actual waste.
Every day, the plant brings in 100 tons of waste from septic tanks. We put the waste through a centrifuge, forming a solid cake – representing about 4% of the waste, which is removed, Mike explains. That leaves 96 tons of water which then needs to be treated, as it still contains dissolved nutrients and pathogens. Both of these things have got to be dealt with.
This water then moves into the liquid side of the plant. There are a number of process tanks and a large bio-disc, but we will come to that later.
A bug’s life
Mike tells us how this nutrient rich water is processed: First we bubble a lot of oxygen into it. This helps break down a lot of the dissolved material and helps to encourage bug growth in the water: bugs that will digest the dissolved nutrients.
But where do these bugs come from That’s where our own eco-systems come in: Typically, the seed material for these bugs is coming from the people who are generating the waste!, Mike enthuses. Essentially, the same bacteria that help keep our gut healthy and assist in digesting our food (be they naturally occurring or from one of those small bottles of good bacteria), are key to Mayglothling’s process.
Those bacteria travel through our process, which has various areas designed to encourage bacterial growth. By growing and thriving, these bacteria consume the nutrients dissolved in the water, Mike explains. The Mayglothling plant therefore creates its own ecosystem to process the waste water The system is perfectly capable of taking care of itself and making the most of whatever nutrient opportunities are there. It’s really quite effective.
But how do you get the bacteria out this – Mike points out, is the job of the bio-disc: As the bacteria thrive on the rotating discs, they grow in quite a structured way – a bit like grass on the surface. When the grass reaches a certain length, because the surface is moving, individual strands snap off.
The bugs are really converting the nutrients from something that’s dissolved and difficult to remove into something much bigger and clumped together that we can get out of the water during later processing, Mike adds.
River of life
So why go to all of this trouble Is the water that comes out of this process fit to drink. Mike would advise against it: It wouldn’t be something you’d encourage anyone to drink, however, it is of a similar quality to the river water, and I wouldn’t encourage you to drink that either rats piddle in it, sheep die in it, cows poo in it – but the river still supports a variety of life, from plant life, fish and insect life, to mammals and birds.
River of life:
The water that we process helps to support all manner of wildlife.
The river of course, is a delicate ecosystem that requires a specific balance of nutrients to allow the wildlife it supports to thrive. Without these Mayglothling processes, this delicate balance would be impacted. The Environment Agency draw up consents that set maximum levels of certain compounds that can be discharged into the river water, but Mayglothling strive to improve on these. Mike explains that this is down to Managing Director, Jonathan Mayglothling.
“He’s got some strong views on the moral and environmental aspects of waste processing. When we look at the levels set by the Environment Agency in their consents, Jonathan is looking to work at 10% of those limits, so he ensures that there is investment in equipment and techniques to achieve a greater level of treatment than might be necessary. We’re treating the waste more vigorously than perhaps another site would, given the same set of consents”
Mayglothling have equipment on site to test the quality of their effluent up to three times a week to ensure that it remains well inside the Environment Agency consents. Mike is proud of the outcome: “We’re normally running at 10% of those levels and eyebrows are raised at Mayglothling if we get anywhere near 50%.”
All this without the addition of any chemicals, instead harnessing the power of natural biological processes.