Steve joined Organica Water in 2017 as VP of Digital Services with responsibility for strengthening and growing the Wastewater Treatment Plant Design Generator software and Operational Supervision & Process Optimization Services.

Prior to joining Organica, Steve was the business development leader at Suez Water Technologies & Solutions (formerly GE Water). In this role, Steve provided strategic corporate direction and program management for the business’s digital initiative. Steve is as a member of the Water Environment Federation (WEF), the Smart Water Network (SWAN), and the American Water Works Association. Additionally, he works with other various associations and utilities to propel digital water innovation. Steve earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business management from Kutztown University in 2005 and has over 12 years of experience in sales, operations, marketing, service optimization, asset performance management and software as a service business model development.

The Water Network sat down with Steve in 2018, to talk about Organica Water and creating digital and treatment innovation within the industry, in their exclusive ‘In Conversation With’ series:

Q: Thank you ​for taking the ​time to talk to ​us, Steve. Would ​you please ​start by ​telling us ​about your ​professional ​background and ​Organica Water? ​

A: Thank you for ​the opportunity ​to talk with ​the Water ​Network ​community. I ​have been in ​the water ​industry for ​roughly 15 ​years and I ​have had the ​opportunity to ​work across all ​industries, ​municipalities ​and coving ​equipment. ​automation, ​chemical, ​service and ​digital. ​Through this ​time in a large ​organization, I ​grew to enjoy ​the innovation ​that is ​occurring ​within the ​water space. ​Joining ​Organica Water ​as the VP of ​Digital ​Services is ​allowing me to ​apply my ​experience and ​boost the ​already ​innovative ​Organica ​Product with ​Digital ​Innovation. ​

Organica Water ​is a global ​provider of ​innovative ​solutions for ​the treatment ​and recycling ​of wastewater. ​Over the past ​two decades, ​Organica has ​developed a ​truly unique ​approach, ​enabling ​customers all ​over the world ​to address ​urban water ​challenges in a ​cost and ​resource ​efficient ​manner. ​Organica’​s solutions are ​all founded on ​the fundamental ​belief that ​nature provides ​the most ​efficient means ​to treat ​wastewater, ​offering ​significant ​cost savings ​compared to ​other solutions, ​and harmonious ​integration ​into modern ​urban ​lifestyles. ​  ​

Q: What are ​ “water ​reclamation ​gardens” ​and how did the ​idea come to ​life? ​

A: Urbanization ​is a simple, ​unstoppable ​theme in modern ​life. People ​move to cities ​to live, making ​these already ​vast communities ​larger and ​larger. The ​simple equation ​goes: more ​people need ​more space and ​will create ​more wastewater. ​ In just years, ​wastewater ​treatment ​plants built on ​the outskirts ​of the city, ​are going to be ​overloaded and ​surrounded by ​the city. A ​highly ​unsustainable ​approach. So ​why place them ​there? Why ​couldn’t ​we treat the ​wastewater at ​the source? The ​answer is, ​these ​facilities take ​up vast amounts ​of space and ​cannot be ​integrated into ​a city’s ​landscape. Just ​ask yourself ​the question, ​would you live ​with an ​industrial ​looking ​wastewater ​treatment ​facility right ​across the ​street? ​Probably not! ​So, let’s ​change this ​approach! And ​so, the Organica ​Solution was ​born. ​

Q: Regular ​wastewater ​treatment ​plants take up ​a lot of space ​but Organica ​managed to ​reduce the ​physical ​footprint and ​eliminate the ​odors. How? What ​makes ​Organica’​s wastewater ​treatment ​different? ​

A: Organica FCR is a type of ​fixed-film ​system offering ​substantial ​benefits, both ​technical and ​economic, over ​alternative ​solutions. Like ​all fixed-film ​systems, ​Organica Food Chain Reactor (FCR) is ​based on the ​same activated ​sludge process ​that has been ​used in ​wastewater ​treatment for ​nearly a ​century, ​whereby microorganisms and ​bacteria (​collectively ​referred to as ​biomass) ​consume and ​metabolize or ​oxidize the ​contaminants ​available in ​wastewater. ​

  • Organica FCR ​drastically ​improves this ​process by ​leveraging a ​fixed-bed ​biofilm (​attached growth,​ and not ​floating ​suspended in ​the water) that ​grows on both ​natural (plant) ​and engineered (​patented ​biofiber media) ​root structures ​in a cascading ​reactor design, ​allowing a much ​greater ​quantity and ​diversity of ​organisms to ​thrive in the ​same physical ​space. ​
  • The larger and ​more diverse ​biomass per ​unit of reactor ​volume results ​in a significantly ​smaller ​physical ​footprint (​reducing ​construction ​costs), as well ​as improved ​stability, ​increased ​nutrient ​removal ​performance, ​and reduced ​energy ​consumption. ​
  • Each Organica ​FCR is housed ​in an ​aesthetically-​pleasing, ​odorless ​structure (​greenhouse in ​colder climates,​ simple shading ​structures only ​in tropical ​climates) with ​the appearance ​of a botanical ​garden, ​preserving the ​surrounding ​land value and ​allowing the ​wastewater ​treatment plant ​(WWTP) to be ​placed directly ​adjacent to the ​wastewater ​source, thereby ​greatly ​reducing ​infrastructure ​costs ​

Q: How many liters per day can ​one Organica’​s facility ​treat depending ​on its size? ​How much of the ​treated water ​can be recycled? ​

A: Organica ​wastewater ​treatment ​facilities, ​similar to ​it’s Conventional ​Activated ​Sludge ​counterpart, ​are highly ​scalable, ​enabling the ​clients to ​treat a wide ​range of ​effluent ​capacities. ​From a numbers ​perspective, we ​already have ​treatment ​plants ranging ​from 100 m3/d ​to 80,000 ​m3/d. This ​versatility ​enhances the ​concept of ​localization by ​enabling the ​Organica team ​to optimize for ​the wide range ​of situations ​and requirements ​necessary to ​build ​wastewater ​facilities in ​the middle of ​cities, close ​to the source ​of the ​wastewater. ​

Organica’​s wastewater ​treatment plant ​can be located ​in the middle ​of the city and ​it is actually ​a desirable ​location to ​live next to. As ​populations ​continue to ​grow, cities ​– ​especially in ​the developing ​world – ​are becoming ​more and more ​crowded, while ​in other parts ​of the world ​ “urban ​sprawl” ​is graying the ​lines between ​what is “​urban” ​and “​suburban.” ​

As a result, ​the land is ​becoming ​scarcer and ​land values ​near population ​centers ​continue to ​rise. ​Governments can ​no longer ​afford to waste ​valuable space ​on WWTPs and ​the odor and ​unattractive ​aesthetics that ​causes people ​to live far ​away from them, ​not to mention ​the high cost ​of building and ​operating the ​infrastructure ​to take the ​wastewater and ​effluent to and ​from the remote ​WWTP location. ​

With an ​attractive ​greenhouse ​design and none ​of the typical ​wastewater ​treatment plant ​odors, the ​garden-like ​appearance of ​an Organica FCR ​offers a ​significantly ​reduced ​geographic and ​“​psychological”​ footprint, ​dramatically ​reducing ​infrastructure ​costs by ​allowing ​wastewater to ​be treated ​close to the ​source.  ​

Q: What is ​the footprint ​of Organica’​s wastewater ​treatment in ​comparison to ​conventional ​plants? ​

A: Due to the ​fixed film ​nature of the ​Organica FCR ​Solution, the ​concentration ​of biomass is ​typically 3 to ​4 times larger ​than in a ​Conventional ​Activated ​Sludge system. ​

As a result of ​this larger ​quantity of ​biomass (hungry ​mouths) in one ​cubic meter of ​reactor volume ​and Organica’​s two decades ​of experience ​with optimal ​architectural ​designs, the ​physical ​footprint of ​Organica ​facilities is ​up to 50% ​smaller ​than conventional ​activated ​sludge plants. ​With land ​values in urban ​areas ever ​increasing, the ​small footprint ​helps to drive ​down capital ​costs.  ​

Q: What is ​necessary for ​the maintenance ​and how much ​energy does ​Organica’​s wastewater ​treatment plant ​use?

A: On average, ​about 50% of ​the energy ​consumed by a ​wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) is used by ​the blowers to ​pump air into ​the water and ​keep the ​biomass alive ​and in ​suspension. ​

As the vast ​majority of the ​biomass in an ​Organica FCR is ​attached (as ​opposed to in ​suspension), ​the suspended ​solids ​concentrations ​are lower in ​each reactor. ​Since oxygen ​transfer in ​clearer water ​is more ​efficient, this ​means that less ​air is required ​to keep the ​ecosystem alive ​in an Organica ​FCR.

Thus, the ​blowers in an ​Organica FCR ​consume ​significantly ​less power than ​those in a ​conventional ​solution for ​the same ​quality and ​quantity of ​wastewater, ​resulting in ​– on ​average – ​30% energy ​savings ​compared to ​Activated ​sludge. ​

Training of ​operators of ​greenfield ​Organica ​facilities ​usually require ​a relatively ​low 2 days as ​all Organica-​powered WWTPs ​have a ​comparatively ​higher degree ​of automation, ​thus reducing ​operator ​interface and ​hence personnel ​requirement on ​site. Depending ​on the size of ​the WWTP a few ​people can ​easily run the ​plant with a ​few hours of ​work every day. ​

Q: Could you ​give us a few ​examples of ​Organica’​s successful ​decentralized ​wastewater ​treatment ​plants around ​the world? ​

A: Currently, ​there are over ​110 Organica ​facilities ​around the ​world, either ​operational or ​under ​construction. ​Some of the ​most notable ​references are ​below: ​

  • Sechelt, ​Canada: This ​4,000 m3/d ​greenfield ​project was ​created due to ​the growing ​stress on the ​municipality’​s old, outdated ​sewage network, ​which consisted ​of the uphill ​transportation ​of wastewater ​to an old CAS ​facility. Due ​to the ​aesthetic and ​odorless ​aspects of the ​Organica ​Solution, a new ​facility was ​built in the ​very middle of ​the city, at ​the source of ​the wastewater, ​saving land ​value by having ​a compact ​footprint, ​reducing OPEX ​and most ​importantly, ​significantly ​reducing CAPEX ​by eliminating ​the need of ​excessive sewer ​infrastructure ​work. ​

  • South Pest, ​Hungary: This ​enormous, old ​wastewater ​treatment ​facility was ​created in the ​1960s to treat ​approximately ​one third of ​the capital’​s wastewater, ​however, due to ​the urbanization ​induced growth ​of the ​city’s ​wastewater ​generation and ​the introduction ​of a waste-to-energy facility ​in the vicinity ​of the site, ​the WWTP ​started ​experiencing ​serious ​malfunctions ​ranging from ​odour problems ​and foaming ​issues to not ​meeting ​discharge ​standards at ​all. By ​enhancing the ​biological ​treatment phase ​with the ​Organica FCR ​technology, the ​hydraulic ​capacity of the ​facility grew ​to 80,000 m3/d, ​eliminating ​odor issues ​and performing ​perfectly, even ​under stress ​load conditions. ​

  • Gencay, France: ​ Located in ​Western France, ​Gençay ​is a small ​community in a ​beautiful ​location with a ​13th-century ​fortress – ​Chateau de ​Gençay ​– in its ​center. Facing ​new water ​quality ​standards, ​Gençay, ​together with ​the neighboring ​town of Saint-​Maurice-La-​Clouere, ​decided to find ​a wastewater ​solution that ​fits into the ​local setting, ​without ruining ​the scenic ​landscape, ​something that ​is of high ​touristic ​interest in the ​region. By ​creating this ​Organica ​powered 600 m3d ​facilities, the ​municipalities ​now generate ​crystal clear ​effluent, while ​preserving the ​touristic ​scenery of the ​region.  ​

Q: Do you ​think ​decentralized ​wastewater ​treatment in ​general, and ​ “water ​reclamation ​gardens” ​will gain in ​popularity in ​a couple of following decades?

A: With ​Urbanization in ​mind, a highly ​different, more ​sustainable ​approach has to ​be considered, ​where ​wastewater ​treatment ​plants are not ​a thing of ​necessity out ​of sight, out ​of mind. The ​Organica ​approach gives ​the community ​the ability, to ​transform ​something ​people ​previously ​considered an ​industrial area ​far on the ​outskirts of ​the city, into ​a “Water ​Reclamation ​Garden”. ​A little green ​heaven, ​bringing color ​the city ​landscape. This ​does not only ​change the ​methods we use ​to treat ​wastewater but ​redefines the ​general ​perspective on ​wastewater ​treatment as a ​whole. ​

Q: What are ​the future ​plans for ​Organica? ​

A: Organica Water ​is still a ​relatively ​young company, ​with geographies ​still untouched. ​ As such, the ​company is very ​focused on ​trying to bring ​the technology ​and this new ​perspective to ​countries in ​dire needs of ​wastewater ​treatment. We ​are expanding ​into the ​software with a ​set of Digital ​Services that ​will help the ​greater water ​industry move ​forward by ​reducing the ​hours of ​engineering ​needed to ​design a plant ​to assist ​with optimization ​of existing ​plants. By ​utilizing ​Digital ​Services, the ​industry can ​take on more ​innovation. ​

Q: Finally, ​do you have a ​take-home ​message for our ​members? ​

A: Water is ​scarce and even ​as we are ​speaking, ​available water ​resources are ​reducing. It is ​our job to put ​the spotlight ​on wastewater ​treatment, and ​turn the “​out of sight, ​out of ​mind” ​mindset on its ​head because ​the key for a ​sustainable ​future lies in ​wastewater ​treatment. A ​smarter, ​localized ​wastewater ​treatment. ​


Original interview courtesy of The Water Network.