AWARD-WINNING CEO EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER CANADA’S WATER POLICIES
By Suzanne Forcese
In reference to the document Water Security For Canadians – Solutions For Canada’s Emerging Water Crisis, Dr. John Pomeroy, Director of the USask-led Global Water Futures told WaterToday “Our national, legal and institutional architecture for water management is weak, ineffective and outdated.”
One of the stumbling blocks in water challenges is that water authorities and responsibilities are fragmented across river basins with overlapping jurisdictions and institutions with insufficient incentives, means or capacity for government to work together effectively to manage shared waters and solve problems.
Dr. Patrick Kiely, CEO of SENTRY™
It is an obstacle that Dr. Patrick Kiely, CEO and Founder of SENTRY™ finds challenging. In an interview the environmental biologist in molecular biology, and microbial ecology, told us, “The one thing I have discovered in water management in Canada is that everyone tends to be overworked and lacking in resources. Everyone wants to do better, but the time, capacity and power don’t exist.”
Kiely’s company SENTRY™ is the recent recipient of the Generation Water Tech Challenge Award sponsored by World Wildlife Fund (WWF)-Canada, and affiliated with Earth Tech.
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Canada, the largest international conservation organization has worked for half a century to protect the future of nature. The Generation Water Tech Award was designed to inspire innovative tech solutions to Canada’s watershed crises.
According to a WWF Watershed Report (A National Assessment of Canada’s freshwater 2017), all of Canada’s 167 sub-watersheds and their ecosystems are under stress.
Two priority problems exist: high threats to urban watersheds, and a data deficit across the country. The report states: “Decades of funding cuts at all levels of government have led to shrunken monitoring programs, and despite the valiant efforts of community-driven groups and organizations across the country, we are left with rampant data deficiencies…Consequently we are not positioned to make evidence-based decisions about our most precious resource.”
Kiely’s concern is also directed toward the fragmentation of water management which is left to individual municipalities. “Small municipalities don’t have the budget or the personnel to invest in drinking water quality and wastewater management issues. How can they possibly protect our watersheds?”
The Generation Water Tech Award, “to find technical solutions that will help discover previously unexplored paths towards healthy freshwater”, was received by Kiely for the real-time sensor technology that monitors microbial activity and water quality in drinking water systems and wastewater treatment systems for municipal and industrial clients.
“Water is supremely misunderstood,” Kiely, told WT. “Most people don’t really understand the level of complexity that goes on between turning on your tap and the magical disappearance of waste at the end of the pipe where someone is there to remove the organics and nutrients. What has always fascinated me was the knowledge and ability required to convert wastewater into a bio-resource. Wastewater doesn’t have to be waste – there’s value and energy in that.”
The innovative, next generation technology that got the attention of WWF Canada is a real-time bio-electrode sensor that allows for the monitoring of microbial metabolic activity in anaerobic and aerobic wastewater treatment systems. The data allows operators to monitor the impact of toxic chemicals or process imbalance on microbial health in the wastewater treatment system. Additionally, this data can be aggregated and combined with existing water quality and operational data to improve and optimize system performance.
System imbalance and failure can cost thousands of dollars per event to fix. “With the SENTRY™, imbalance or toxic shock events can be identified the instant they begin to impact microbial activity. This allows the operator to take immediate action to reduce impact on system performance.”
Kiely adds, “The whole purpose of a wastewater treatment system is to make sure that whatever is leaving the system is of sufficient quality. Wastewater is treated using anaerobic digesters. The latest numbers show us that in Canada, half a million systems go down per year at some point.” There is no way of knowing really when they are going to go down because there is no digital data to warn the operators of impending bacteria imbalance. “Systems may have been down for 48 hours or more before it is discovered.”
SENTRY™ provides real time information on how the systems are performing and when they will go down. “We have a simple bio-electrode sensor which you can place into that anaerobic digester and the biology on the sensor communicates with the electrode surface.”
The operator can view the performance of the biology.
“It actually makes sense for industrial treatment because those are the guys where the systems fail. When they fail it’s a big deal for the operators and it’s a big deal in terms of cost and it’s a big deal in terms of wastewater being discharged into the environment. The sensor solves a real pain point for these guys.”
WWF Canada states, “The platform is an ideal solution for describing the health of a watershed with sensors capable for remote and maintenance free operation.”
SENTRY™ has been validated with the Ontario Clean Water Agency as a platform for monitoring raw water intake to their drinking water plants from the Great Lakes.
Kiely’s goal is to provide a technology development ecosystem that is focused on continuing to identify needs and provide wastewater treatment solutions for customers that are both economically and environmentally sustainable.
“When it comes to water, there are no borders,” Kiely adds. “We want to help Canadian communities understand how to reduce downtime and increase performance of their drinking water systems and wastewater systems. We are here to support anyone with water issues.”
As Earth Tech and WWF Canada continue to educate, support, and inspire clean-tech start-ups working toward solutions to Canada’s water crises, Dr. Patrick Kiely adds “we are in the process of scaling up our technology to help as many people as possible.”
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