Some type approved marine sewage treatments are at sea that are scientifically incapable of treating sewage waste. That’s the charge made by a group of leading wastewater treatment system manufacturers and environmental organizations.
They are calling for a revision to MARPOL Annex IV in order to verify the ongoing performance and discharge criteria of sewage treatment systems onboard ship.
While there are rules in place for verifying discharge parameters, these relate only to type-approval testing in land-based establishments. There is currently no enforcement of the wastewater discharge criteria once a system has been installed and becomes operational onboard ship.
Mark Beavis, Managing Director of leading waste water treatment specialist ACO Marine, says: “The main contention is that we believe there are type-approved systems in operation at sea that are scientifically incapable of treating sewage waste.”
Beavis is a co-author of a paper – Sewage Treatment with No-Sludge Production – A False Claim, and a Non-Conformity – that asserts:
“Some manufacturers claim their sewage treatment plants do not produce sludge. Unfortunately, conformity assessment bodies have approved their equipment. But they have certified impossibilities and created certified ‘magic boxes.’ These systems contravene science.”Sewage Treatment with No-Sludge Production – A False Claim, and a Non-Conformity
Beavis said: “Sewage treatment plants protect the marine environment by turning raw sewage into less harmful effluent that meets specific discharge criteria set by the International Maritime Organisation. As a by-product of the treatment process, sewage sludge is created that has to be either treated onboard or incinerated ashore. This sludge is a by-product or all treatment processes. But instead of being separated from the treatment process, this sludge is being flushed out in the effluent.
“These ‘magic boxes’ would not be able to perform no matter how well they are operated and we are very concerned about the environmental damage these systems are causing.”
While the rules were tightened with IMO resolution MEPC.227(64) and the use of dilution water limited during performance tests, this has not prevented the certification of the so-called sludge-free systems.
“Certificates have become licenses to pollute. Something is very wrong,” the authors state in the paper.
Existing Guidelines do not explicitly prohibit no-sludge systems but the authors believe the type approval regime is a “contradiction to the IMO’s intentions”.
“There is a lot at stake: the credibility of the approval regimes, the liabilities to shipowners and yards, a level playing field, the IMO’s environmental aspirations and ultimately, the pristine marine water that we have agreed to protect,” say the authors.
The paper was co-authored by Mark Beavis, Managing Director, ACO Marine; Dr Wei Chen, Future Program Development Manager, Wartsila Water Systems Ltd, UK; Dr Elmar Dorgeloh, Manager Director, Development and Assessment Institute in Waste Water Technology at RWTH-Aachen University (PIA), Germany; Holger Hamann, Managing Director, Holger Hamann Consulting; Matthew MacGregor, Executive Director, TEi-Testing Services; Dr Daniel Todt, Project Manager R&D, Ecomotive AS; Niclas Karlsson, Managing Director, Clean Ship Scandinavia; Mark Mellinger, President, Headhunter Inc; and Felix von Bredow, Board of Hamman AG.
The authors call for IMO, its Member States and the approval assessment bodies to identify and to acknowledge the issue and establish protocols in order to prevent such non-conformities from reoccurring.
Existing Guidelines do not explicitly prohibit no-sludge systems, but the authors of a new paper believe they should
“There are type-approved systems in operation at sea that are scientifically incapable of treating sewage waste,” says ACO Marine Managing Director Mark Beavis
About ACO Marine:
Established more than fifteen years ago, ACO Marine is a member of the international German-headquartered ACO Group and a leading supplier of advanced wastewater treatment systems to the global commercial, naval, offshore and leisure marine sectors with a sales and service network world-wide. Its unique environmental solutions are used primarily in wastewater technology, wastewater management and drainage systems. ACO Marine develops in-house solutions from its ISO 9001 accredited production facilities, all of which are located entirely within the EU.