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Wastewater Storage vs. Onsite Treatment – How to decide which is right for your remote camp?

Storage vs. Treatment

Are you curious as to whether it’s worth investing in onsite wastewater treatment for your project or simply wastewater storage before pumping offsite? We’ve been asked this question time and time again, so we’ve weighed up the pros and cons of each management method to help you decide.

Water management plays an integral role in the seamless day-to-day operations of any remote site, particularly an accommodation camp within the mining sector.

Water is an essential resource when it comes to:

  • cooking,
  • cleaning,
  • operating amenities such as showers, taps and toilets,
  • vehicle wash bays,
  • and most importantly, providing safe drinking water.

 

It’s no mystery then, that wastewater is an inevitable by-product of the extensive water usage on remote sites. In the early stages of planning any accommodation village, the pressing question of how this wastewater will be dealt with arises.

There are two primary options on the table:

 1. Integrating an onsite sewage treatment plant

2. Storing wastewater for offsite treatment

There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to choosing which option is best suited to your site, but we’ve discussed a few key factors to consider. The table below very generally captures the best option based on these factors.

Water Storage vs. Water Treatment Matrix

1. TIME

 

How long is your site realistically going to be in operation?

Short-term

A short-term site with a lifespan of just 1-8 months will likely see greater benefit in water storage.

Why?

  • Reduced capital investment – Any water treatment plant will likely not in operation for long enough to offset the greater investment of such a system.
  • Rapid deployment – Water storage options such as tanks or the WaterBox, offer the advantage of rapid deployment. These are pre-packaged products that can be transported to site on short notice.
  • Environmental approval takes time – A tailored wastewater treatment system requires environmental approval from the state’s environmental regulatory body in order to discharge effluent onsite. This is often a time-intensive process and, depending on the terrain of your site, may not be feasible for your site or project timeline.

 

Long-term

If your site will be in operation for longer than 8-12 months, looking to an onsite wastewater treatment plant will likely be worth your while.

Why?

  • Pump-out fees will be too expensive – Although a more costly investment upfront, by integrating a wastewater treatment system you will be forgoing the costly pump-out fees of transporting your wastewater to an approved discharge location. This may be justified on a short-term project, but over time this will chew through the budget significantly.
  • Treated wastewater can be reused – Depending on your site, the treated wastewater can be used for local irrigation, reducing the demand on potable water.

 

2. Environmental Regulation

 

Environmental bodies have rigid regulations when it comes to discharging treated wastewater to the land. This can make the process of having a wastewater treatment plant approved a difficult endeavour, and even impossible when the terrain is not permissive of irrigation (e.g. close proximity to a bore, watercourse, wetland or spring).

Should your plans not comply with regulation, wastewater storage may be your only option.

 

3. MOBILITY

 

Mobile

Is your camp likely to be relocating on a regular basis? If so, a wastewater storage solution will be the better option. The WaterBox has been optimised for such circumstances and can be relocated with a 12-tonne forklift or crane. It’s shipping container design also lends it to easy compatibility with any truck/train transport.

 

Fixed

Wastewater treatment systems tend to be far more difficult to relocate, and commission and decommission. Taking all other factors into consideration, these are far better suited to camps that will be in a fixed location for a prolonged period.

If you are looking for a turnkey wastewater treatment system that can move with your camp, discover the EcoFarmer.

 

4. CAMP SIZE

 

Similar to the factor of time, the size of your remote camp will impact the volume of wastewater produced.

Small

For a small camp consisting of up to 100 people, less wastewater will generally be produced and therefore, wastewater storage may be more feasible.

 

Large

For a larger camp accommodating over 100 people, the volume of wastewater produced would likely be in excess of what mere storage could handle. This increased load would lend itself to a wastewater treatment solution being integrated.

 

5. COST

 

At this point, you’ll understand that many factors will impact the cost of a wastewater management system, but generally:

  • for a short-term or mobile project, wastewater storage will be more cost-effective.
  • for a long-term, fixed project, onsite wastewater treatment will be more cost-effective.

Below we’ve outlined the primary costs (other than the cost of the system itself) associated with each option:

Wastewater Storage

  • Wastewater pump out – Only licensed liquid waste transport operators can legally transfer wastewater to an external facility. Due to the environmental, public health and workplace safety risks of transporting such high volumes of sewage, the cost of liquid waste removal services can be extremely high.

 

Wastewater Treatment System 

  • System maintenance – A wastewater treatment plant will require regular maintenance to ensure the ongoing efficiency of the system. Neglected plants with built up residue will eventually break down and require expensive repairs or replacement. We recommend a cleaning-in-place (CIP) system to ensure the long-term health of your plant.
  • Chemicals and consumables – In order to treat the wastewater, chemical dosing is generally required. Therefore, there is an ongoing cost of ensuring there is sufficient inventory to keep the system in operation.

 

We’re here to support you

 

The experienced team at RWTS is always available to guide and support you in developing the best wastewater management system for your project. For a truly tailored approach, get in touch with us today. We’ll handle the complexities of system design, leaving you with a streamlined, user-centred solution.

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