Improving maintenance and raising personal motivation at the modern wastewater treatment plant

The IWAMA project focuses on improving resource efficiency of wastewater management, and one side of this process is capacity development of personnel employed at the wastewater treatment facilities. Throughout the project duration, IWAMA has organized six extensive workshops, each focusing on a particular topic recognized by the partners as essential for the continuous process of capacity building. The project covered subjects of energy consumption and production, sludge handling, reduction of nutrients – and most recently, namely, last week, existing challenges in maintenance of plants.

The sixth workshop in the course of IWAMA was focused on the topic “Constructional and operational challenges”, it was organized on 19–21 September 2018 in Gdańsk, Poland, attracting more than 70 participants from the water sector in the Baltic Sea Region.

Opened up with energetic welcomes from the city of Gdańsk and the hosting project partner Gdańsk Water Utilities, the workshop continued with introducing solutions to various challenges that might occur during the construction process of new facilities, or while maintaining an already existing plant. Presenters highlighted several overarching themes:

  • technical questions, such as solving of seasonal fluctuations in loading or operating dewatering and thickening processes,
  • challenges in personnel demand,
  • issues in applying smart prediction strategies, f.ex. computer modelling to optimise plants’ performance,
  • various matters of meeting the demands of and balancing the financing from local, national and regional levels when talking about the governance of WWTPs.

The speakers represented a mix from academia, water associations and private sector professional fields, offering solutions that were proven not only in theory and in practice, but also on the general competitive market, which is crucial when talking about WWT infrastructure.

While it is highly important to have a fully and correctly functioning infrastructure, the plants should also have motivated and professional personnel to operate them. This issue was voiced during a special session for case studies in meeting the personnel demand. Solutions were presented by different parts of the region – Germany, Finland, Estonia and Poland. Presenters highlighted diverse trainings that can be performed for continuous education of plants’ personnel. D.Sc. Sirpa Sandelin in her presentation on knowledge management and retention summarized most common challenges in water services: ageing personnel, diminishing workforce, operational efficiency. She revealed that people learn about 80 percent of their skills at work and new knowledge is developed by solving current problems. However, to make the learning process efficient, a specially organized environment is needed to boost creativity and increase the level of comfort with a shared and common culture.

The personnel should feel that their skills and knowledge are valued, as each individual contributes to the organisational development,” – said Sandelin.

A significant part of the workshop programme was devoted to the neighbourhoods sessions in the themes of capacity development tools developed in the project, questions of dewatering and using polymers, and selected aspects of maintenance from the energy efficiency perspective. The neighbourhoods sessions’ concept allows organizing topically-focused discussions for professionals depending on their field of interest, and these sessions bring together experiences from varied parts of the region allowing outlining special practices applied in different countries.

With the extensive discussions around the named topic, it is of no less importance to offer practical examples and experience. Therefore, during the second day of the workshop, participants went for a site visit to the Wschód wastewater treatment facilities. In the scope of practical demonstration of the treatment, sludge thermal treatment, and cogeneration plants, the participants also visited the pilot testing anammox-based system for mainstream treatment launched in the IWAMA project. The pilot investment including a combined anammox-constructed wetland focuses on minimizing energy consumption for the removal of organics and nutrients while maximizing recovery of organic matter from wastewater to produce renewable energy.

IWAMA Workshop in Gdansk