Rural areas and modern wastewater management. Summary of the conference

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Rural areas play an important role in our society, being not only a source of food, but also a place for many people to live. As civilization advances, it becomes necessary to bring rural infrastructure up to modern standards. This includes wastewater management.

According to the CSO, the percentage of the population connected to the combined sewer system and living in rural areas is only 46%. In the Lubelskie and Łódzkie provinces, it is one in four residents. A CSO report indicates that 10.5 million Poles living in rural areas are not connected to sewers, which means that 93% of wastewater from unsewered areas does not reach treatment plants. What solutions can help?

Summary of the conference “Alternative solutions for wastewater management in rural areas”

On May 22, the European Center for Geological Education in Chęciny hosted a conference organized by the University of Warsaw’s Department of Biology, Bank Gospodarstwa Krajowego and RDLS Sp. Ltd. (a UW spin-off company). Idea 3W (an initiative of BGK) was a content partner, and Wody Polskie was the meeting’s patron. The event was attended by representatives of more than 70 municipalities from the Świętokrzyskie province and its neighboring counties. Due to the recent amendment of the Water Law, a difficult decision has come before local government officials who are responsible for specific rural areas. It concerns the choice of how to upgrade old or build new wastewater treatment plants. The purpose of the organized conference was to provide information on the latest treatment technologies and to help the audience make the right decisions for their municipalities.

Rural areas – hydrophytic treatment plant as an innovative solution

The conference showcased technology to meet all legal and environmental standards while ensuring low maintenance costs. We are talking about hydrophytic treatment plants of the constructed wetlads type. It was mentioned by representatives of BGK – the bank that is the operator of the Polish Deal – that municipalities can receive up to 95% funding for water and sewage investments from this very program. BGK’s new initiative, Idea 3W, was also presented. Its name comes from the first three letters of the resources: water, hydrogen and coal, which BGK says have the potential to change Poland’s economy into a more innovative one.

According to the organizers, the most attractive solution, eagerly implemented in rural areas, is the passive hydrophytic treatment plant. It mimics the habitat conditions typical of natural marsh ecosystems, and a variety of organisms inhabiting the filter beds and water-loving plants are responsible for the purification process. It is a natural and ecological solution that does not require the use of chemicals. These types of treatment plants are already popular in countries such as Germany, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France and Italy.

Although a hydrophytic treatment plant occupies a much larger area than a traditional wastewater treatment plant, it is much cheaper to maintain. A properly designed passive system works for years without much human input, while using much less energy than other forms of purification, and the microorganisms adapt to changing conditions. Such a treatment plant also does not cause unpleasant odors, which was emphasized at the conference by Grażyna Lamczyk, head of Debowa Kloda municipality, where the village of Bialka is located and the passive treatment plant is operating. In turn, Wojciech Sepiol, Mayor of Wyśmierzyce, explained the reasons for choosing such a technology rather than another one by the fact that nearly 90% of the investment costs were covered by the Polish Order program. He added that by choosing this type of treatment plant, he was confident that it would not negatively affect the environment.

The gradual replacement or complete replacement of old and leaky sewage systems in rural areas would help reduce the amount of waste entering the environment. CSO data says that 93% of wastewater from unsanctioned areas does not reach treatment plants. Rural areas in terms of connection to the collective treatment system are still at a low level. This is particularly evident when comparing regions from this angle – in the Pomorskie Voivodeship, 68% of rural residents are connected to the sewer system, while in the Świętokrzyskie and Malopolskie Voivodeships, 43% and 45% respectively.

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