As the Boneo Water Recycling Plant (WRP) is nearing its capacity, South East Water is investing $130 million to upgrade the plant to ensure the future treatment of wastewater for the southern Mornington Peninsula. The new, energy-efficient water treatment and recycling infrastructure will support population growth, protect the local environment and maximise recycled water production.

South East Water provides water, sewerage and recycled water services to over 1.6 million people living and working in Melbourne’s south east. The upgrade of the Boneo WRP will enable an additional 16,000 properties in the area to connect to South East Water’s Peninsula ECO scheme, a reticulated pressure sewer network helping to replace septic tanks and mini treatment plants, a known cause of groundwater and waterway pollution on the southern peninsula.

During the summer months, peak flows into the Boneo WRP increase by up to 50 per cent. Currently, the WRP treats an average wastewater inflow of ten Megalitres per day (ML/d), increasing to 15ML/d during the summer period. The major upgrade is part of the masterplan to meet growth in the area for the next 30 years (up to 2050).

Low-energy, high-efficiency upgrade

The concept design stage evaluated four process options; the selected option is an anaerobic process followed by nutrient removal in the existing bioreactors via the nitrite-shunt nutrient removal process — an emerging technology which significantly reduces the electricity required to treat the wastewater. This technology recovers carbon for energy generation on site through the incorporation of a co generation plant. Removal of carbon will significantly reduce energy consumption to help South East Water achieve its emissions reductions target of 45 per cent by 2025, and will have the potential for the plant to become carbon positive.

The upgrade will include the capture of biogas generated during the treatment process to power the plant’s operations. Both technologies will assist in reducing South East Water’s reliance on grid electricity in the treatment process.

Terri Benson, Managing Director at South East Water, said the Boneo WRP upgrade will support the continued growth of the Mornington Peninsula as a place to live, work and play, while helping to maintain its pristine environment.

“It will also move us significantly closer to our emissions reduction targets, and our commitment to customers to protect our environment.”

Joint venture awarded upgrade contract

South East Water has appointed the John Holland SUEZ Beca (JHSB) joint venture to upgrade the plant.

The upgrade will be delivered through a design, build, operate and maintain contract, with JHSB operating the plant for ten years to enable knowledge sharing and collaboration. The project will incorporate the latest available technology, including automation, will be used to achieve world-class operations and maintenance practices. South East Water has engaged with a broad range of community and stakeholder groups throughout the planning process. This includes a partnership with Melbourne Water and Mornington Peninsula Shire Council to revitalise a section of the Tootgarook Wetlands adjacent to the plant, which is home to over 120 different bird species, some of which are threatened or endangered. Already more than 57,000 new plants have been planted.

It is expected that 160 new jobs and ten new apprenticeships will be created for the design, build, operation and maintenance of the plant. South East Water anticipates works to commence in March 2019, with the upgrades in operation by January 2020.  

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