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ECEN 1801 Academic English for Science


A new sewage treatment technology ---- Autothermal Thermophilic

Aerobic Digestion impacts on Hong Kong people within next 50 years

There are 2.6 million cubic metres of sewage that is produced by Hong Kong people

everyday. A fraction of them are drained into the sea without any treatment. (Drainage

Services Department 2008) This would cause great damage of marine life and the

situation may grow worse and worse in next decade if we do nothing about sewage.

Therefore, treatment of sewage is a tough task for Hong Kong in the future. The aims

of the essay are going to find out some possible solutions to deal with the sewage

problem. Firstly, a new sewage treatment technology ----Autothermal Thermophilic

Aerobic Digestion (ATAD) (Noreen & Harlan 2007) will be introduced. And then it
would discuss the cost of sewage treatment in Hong Kong and how the population

growth in Hong Kong affects the sewage problem. Finally the relation between

Reclaimed Water and ATAD technology will be discussed in depth.

ATAD is a new technology, with a chemical process, to reduce the volume of waste

sludge and the microbes in the sewage (Noreen 2007). The characteristic of this

technology is that the process that typically operates at thermophilic temperatures

only within 45-65 and without supplemental heat. (Harlan 2007) In compare with

other wastewater treatment, its cost efficient is much higher than many others sewage

treatments. Consequently, it is frequently applied in the waste disposal industry in

USA and some Europe countries e.g. Ireland, Killarney and Germany. In the

meanwhile, scientists still work on ATAD and try to improve its efficiency. It seems

that ATAD technology is a very powerful and potential technology, it may possible

become a dominate technology in sewage treatment area in the future.

The treatment of wastewater sludge is an expensive and an environmentally sensitive

problem worldwide. (Noreen 2007). One of the major problems of wastewater

treatment is that there are lots of microbes in the sewage and most of them are

harmful to human being and also marine life. (Drainage Services Department 2008)
As a result, we have to do some specific treatments before we drain it into the sea.

The treatment of wastewater sludge involves many physical and chemical steps which

need special technology and equipments. For instance, in Hong Kong there are four

types of sewage treatment facilities:

1. Preliminary Treatment (Screening) – removes the larger solids from the sewage by


2. Primary Treatment – removes the solid waste and settleable suspended solid from

the sewage by sedimentation.

3. Chemically Enhanced Primary Treatment –enhances the removal of suspended

solids and the biochemical oxygen demand by adding chemicals.

4. Secondary Treatment - decompose the organic matter in the settled sewage by

micro-organisms in the biological treatment process (Drainage Services

Department 2008).

According to the government announcement, the Sewage Charge will increase from

the original $1.2 to $1.31 per cubic metre of water supplied. Finally the price will

increase to $2.92 in 2017 (Drainage Services Department 2008). It could be predicted

that the Sewage Charge would continuing this trend even after 2017. This is because

we likely need to introduce the Tertiary Treatment in order to keep our Victoria

Harbour pellucid and clear again (Civic Part 2008). Therefore, a higher cost effective
and quality of sewage treatment is needed in Hong Kong. Certainly, the ATAD

technology is one of the options.

On the other hand, as the increasing of population in Hong Kong, there is not doubt

that both the demand of fresh water and the drained of sewage will increase. As the

Hong Kong is still in development, a large amount of water is needed in building

trade, catering trade and industries etc. However, the water supplier, the Mainland

also needs a great amount of water in the future. It turns out that the price of water

may jump to a high value. The worst case probability is that there is not enough water

to supply to Hong Kong (Water Supplies Department 2008). As for the drain of

sewage, it also increases due to the city development. How can we increase the water

supply and reduce the sewage drained? Probability using Reclaimed Water is one of

the best solutions to deal with two problems at the same time (Drainage Services

Department 2008).

Reclaimed Water probably will be widely used in Hong Kong within next 50 years.

Reclaimed Water is widely used in many developed countries now. It can be used in

lots of areas, such as, irrigation areas in parks, urban development, landscaping Road

cleaning, car washing and flushing of toilets etc. In Hong Kong, the government

practices a pilot scheme in order to collect useful information for the future wider use
of Reclaimed Water. For this reason, the first tertiary sewage treatment plant is put

into practice in Ngong Ping. Exports said that Reclaimed water is safe to use because

it is clear in appearance and smell-less and also it is highly treated (Drainage Services

Department 2008). In the other words, the higher quality of Reclaimed Water is

produce by sewage treatment plant, the less we need to rely on fresh water because it

means fresh water can be replaced by the Reclaimed Water in more areas. Therefore,

if ATAD technology can be introduced in Hong Kong, it is possible to accelerate the

‘step’ of promotion using Reclaimed Water in Hong Kong. Actually, according to the

Global Projections, there are half of the world’s population will suffer from lacking of

water supply in 2025 (Drainage Services Department 2008). Therefore, it is time we

prepared for the challenging in following decides.

In conclusion, ATAD is a very high potential technology. There are many west

countries that star to adopt it because of its cost effective and highly quality sewage

treatment. As for Hong Kong, we have our own methods to treat the sewage now;

however, it seems we can do better than now. We need a more sophisticated sewage

treatment system to support the fast development in Hong Kong. We need to develop

the Reclaimed Water system as soon as possible because the fresh water is reducing in

the world. We have to take precautions before it is too late.

Census and Statistics Department of HKSAR. 2008. Statistics by Subject [online].


Accessed: 2008 October 21.
Civic Party 2008. Policy Papers. Harbour Area Treatment Scheme and Sewage

Charges [online]. Available:

Accessed: 2008 October 19.

Drainage Services Department of HKSAR. 2008. Sewerage strategy [online].


Accessed: 2008 October 18.

Harlan G Kelly. Wayne Urban, Roger Warren. 2007. Design Considerations for

Autothermal Thermophilic Aerobic Digestion [online]. Dayton & Knight Ltd.


Considerations%20for%20ATAD.pdf Accessed: 2008 October 7

Noreen M Layden. 2007. An evaluation of autothermal thermophilic aerobic digestion

(ATAD) of municipal sludge in Ireland [online]. Canada: National Research

Council Canada. Available: http://article.pubs.nrc-

e=6&calyLang=eng&articleFile=s06-038.pdf Accessed: 2008 October 7
Water Supplies Department of HKSAR. 2008. Information and Publications [online].

Available: Accessed: 2008

October 21.