Official Opening of EPA-funded NUI Galway Water Research Facility

Date released: Feb 08 2010

The new NUI Galway Water Research Facility at Tuam, Co. Galway was officially opened today by Michael Finneran, Minister for Housing & Local Services and TD for Roscommon-South Leitrim.  Core funding to establish the facility was provided by the EPA through its STRIVE Research Programme, and by NUI Galway.

Located on the site of Tuam Waste Water Treatment Plant the facility is a full-scale test-bed for novel waste water and water treatment technologies.  There are already a range of NUI Galway research projects on new green technologies underway at the Water Research Facility.

EPA Director, Laura Burke said:

“With a rising population and increasing requirements for improved water quality, there is a real need to develop and optimise waste water treatment systems, especially for villages and small towns. I expect that this facility will play a strong role in developing new indigenous solutions to protect the environment and deliver economic growth.”

In order to minimise the environmental impact of sewage discharges, effective systems are required to treat waste water and ensure clean and safe waters.   By using influent taken from Tuam town waste water, the facility provides researchers and manufacturers with opportunities to evaluate novel technologies under realistic conditions. Effluent from the research facility is returned to the main Tuam WWTP ensuring there is no risk to the environment from the development work. Operating at a scale equivalent to a village with a population of 400, this system offers high performance at low operating costs.  It is estimated that this new technology will allow the plant to operate at approximately 25% of typical running costs for a conventional activated sludge plant of similar size.

Speaking at the opening of the facility, Minister Finneran said:

“Work funded through the EPA STRIVE Research programme is continuing to deliver new and innovative responses to environmental problems, while also making a significant contribution to the development of Ireland’s Smart Economy.

The Tuam Water Research Facility is an excellent example of this, employing solutions generated by Irish researchers to deliver high performance results at low operating costs. As work progresses at the facility, it will also contribute towards implementation of the Water Framework Directive in Ireland.”

Commenting on the work carried out to date, Professor Terry Smith, Vice-President of Research at NUI Galway, noted:

"The Tuam Water Research Facility provides a world-class facility for carrying out collaborative cutting-edge research for research institutions and industry on full-scale, smart green technologies that purify water and wastewater. The Water Research Facility has great potential to give Irish companies an innovative advantage in increasing its share of the international environmental technologies market, worth €227 billion per year in the EU alone.”

Jim Cullen, Director of Service, Environment & Water Services Unit at Galway County Council explained:

“This plant demonstrates the value of co-operation between researchers and government bodies working in the same area. By working closely with local researchers, Galway County Council is pleased to have supported the establishment of this impressive facility, which we expect to deliver working solutions that will assist us in meeting our water treatment needs.”

Whilst core funding was provided by the EPA and NUI Galway, additional critical support came from Galway County Council, who provided the site and carried out civil engineering works. A range of industrial partners, including the main contractors Response Group Ltd, also contributed resources and equipment.

Further information: Niamh Leahy, EPA Media Relations Office 053-9170770 (24 hours)

Note to Editors:
Further Collaborative Research:
Building on the EPA’s investment, other bodies including Enterprise Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland and the EU are currently funding NUI Galway research projects on new green technologies at the Water Research Facility. Collaborative research proposals on smart water quality sensors, advanced equipment for removing viruses and phosphorus from waters, and the use of efficient biological processes have been received from research organisations and companies in Ireland and the USA. The research facility also provides a location for education and training in best practices for wastewater treatment for engineering and science students, water industry personnel and the public.

EPA STRIVE programme:
The EPA Science, Technology, Research and Innovation for the Environment Programme (STRIVE) employs a strategic and targeted approach to protecting and improving the natural environment through the provision and accumulation of scientific research and knowledge. The programme is funded through the National Development Plan and the EPA administers this funding on behalf of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The programme has placed a particular emphasis in environmental technologies and to position Ireland as a leader in this field by building capacity, while simultaneously contributing to environmental protection.

Environmental technologies market:
Environmental technologies are cleaner and resource-efficient technologies that can decrease material inputs, reduce energy consumption, recover valuable by-products, minimise waste disposal problems, or some combination of these.

Such eco-innovation is regarded as a major opportunity for the EU economy.  In the EU the sector currently employs 3.4 million people and turns over €227 billion annually.  On a global scale, it is anticipated that the environmental technologies market will double from its present level to reach €2.3 trillion by 2020.

Wastewater Treatment:
Urban waste water can be described as domestic waste water or a mixture of domestic waste water and industrial waste water and/or run-off rain water. The treatment of urban waste water - effluent from houses and businesses - before it is discharge to rivers, estuaries or the sea is important to prevent pollution.

The Waste Water Discharge (Authorisation) Regulations, 2007 introduced for the first time an authorisation system for all local authority waste water discharges. The EPA is now the competent authority for assessing discharge licence applications and granting authorisations setting out specific conditions to prevent and control water pollution. Authorisations will require appropriate remedial actions within specified timeframes to be undertaken to address each of the discharge locations within an area. The remedial action will ensure that appropriate protection is afforded to the receiving water environment.