Irstea has over 40 years of experience in domestic wastewater treatment and recovery and is the preferred scientific contact for sanitation professionals. Since 2011, Irstea, in partnership with the city of Lyon, has run a research and testing platform that is unique in France. Linked to the La Feyssine (69) wastewater treatment plant, it includes cutting-edge facilities to support development and meet the sector’s new challenges.
Improving the quality of treated water to preserve the natural environment into which it is discharged, reducing the environmental impact of wastewater treatment plants and recovering resources contained in the wastewater are some of the current issues that need to be resolved to ensure wastewater is managed sustainably. Scientists from the REVERSAAL unit at the Irstea Lyon-Villeurbanne center who specialize in the treatment and recovery of domestic wastewater are working to improve our understanding of various treatment processes and to support public and private stakeholders in designing, running and optimizing wastewater treatment and recovery facilities.
To achieve this, the Lyon team uses the La Feyssine platform, a unique research and test facility. “Located in the Lyon city wastewater treatment plant, this facility has two main advantages. Firstly, it provides direct and continuous access to the city’s wastewater during the various treatment stages (incoming water, water in various stages of treatment, sewage sludge). The project also uses a group of semi-industrial prototype facilities (smaller wastewater treatment plants) that also operate under real conditions,” explains Jean-Marc Perret, research engineer at the Irstea Lyon-Villeurbanne center and platform manager.
Mini-plants to recreate each treatment process
By using prototypes that reproduce the most common processes used in the 20,000 wastewater treatment plants currently operating in France (activated sludge 1 and reed bed filters2) and by developing on-demand prototypes to test innovative processes, Irstea researchers are working to remove scientific and technical obstacles and to resolve real-world problems identified by sector stakeholders (communities, operators and builders of wastewater treatment plants, academics, EPNAC independent network, etc.). Their current aims include optimizing process performances to further reduce pollution levels in wastewater (carbon, phosphorus, nitrogen) before it is returned to the environment, reducing energy costs for treatment processes, recovering materials such as phosphorus that can be used as fertilizer, as well as designing new treatment methods that allow treated water to be reused directly (e.g., agricultural irrigation).
Wastewater: a source of matter and energy:
Among the flagship projects run at the La Feyssine platform, the CAPTURE project (2018-2022), in partnership with INSA Lyon, SAUR, the Rhône-Mediterranean-Corsica water agency, the city of Lyon and the AXELERA competitive cluster, clearly illustrates current changes to the status of wastewater, from waste to be treated to resources to be recovered. “The aim of this project is to develop new technologies that can be used to capture as much carbon as possible from wastewater as soon as it enters the plant, in order to use it as a raw material to create methane (biogas). Ultimately, it will be possible to produce large quantities of renewable energy to be used directly by the plant, or even to supplement the city’s gas networks,” explains Perret. The stakes are high, with experts estimating that this process could produce 70 to 80% more methane than current wastewater treatment plants while simultaneously reducing their overall energy consumption by up to 50%.
La Feyssine Platform profile
- Article. Irstea, scientific backing for new treatment techniques
- Feature. Improving the quality of treated wastewater
- Consult the web pages of the Reducing, Reusing, Recovering wastewater resources (REVERSAAL) unit and the Irstea Lyon-Villeurbanne center
1- Process primarily used in large urban areas. It involves stimulating bacteria that degrade organic matter (containing carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus) and are found naturally in wastewater. These bacteria group together in flocs (activated sludge), which makes it possible to remove them from the water once it has been treated.
2- Process primarily used in small to medium communities. It involves circulating wastewater through a layer of filtering material in which bacteria (filtering biomass) and plants can grow.
3- Sequencing Batch Reactor (SBR): process during which sludge is removed from treated wastewater within a single facility.
4- Moving Bed Biofilm Reactor (MBBR): use of submerged, moving supports to encourage bacterial growth (filtering biomass).