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  • Dear Readers!

    If truth be told, we had all been hoping that we would no longer have to talk about Covid by spring 2021. Who would have thought that we would be spending a second Easter and a second Ramadan with no end to the pandemic in sight? The longer this situation continues, the more difficult it is to maintain the public and personal discipline needed to fight the pandemic. People are weary. They are fed up with having to go from one lockdown to the next with there being no real prospects of life returning to normal. And while infection rates continue to rise no matter what restrictions are put in place, the country’s normally reliable federalist system is beginning to reveal some weaknesses. Is it really helpful that the measures taken to tackle this global threat are decided on at federal state level? On the other hand, why should public life grind to a halt in a sparsely populated region with a low two-figure infection rate just because the number of people catching the virus is rising exponentially in an area several hundred kilometres away? There are no simple answers but at least we are fortunate to have almost 27,000 ICU beds here in Germany and are better prepared for the situation than many other countries. However, being forced to focus almost entirely on treating Covid patients, hospitals are finding themselves in a difficult financial position – to say nothing of the huge and constant stress levels that the ICU healthcare professionals are having to cope with. At least the Covid measures have led to a dramatic decline in all other kinds of respiratory illnesses. Fortunately, the strict hygiene measures have meant that we have not had to deal with a flu epidemic this year.

    The world tends to view Germans as being both extremely organised and efficient. Some may be reconsidering their opinion, though, looking at the speed – or lack of speed – vaccinations are being rolled out. Which once again brings us back to the subject of using the private sector to deliver essential services. Here, too, many problems could have been prevented right from the start if politicians had taken up the help offered by the private sector to support the vaccination campaign. It can be assumed that an international online ticket seller, one able to sell millions of tickets for rock festivals or worldwide concert tours within just a few hours, would be able to organise online vaccination appointments faster and more efficiently than the overworked local health authorities with their outdated IT systems – and certainly without their website crashing or without them having to develop new software first. Such offers, however, have been taken up by just a few individual public health offices and then only belatedly.

    Are things running more smoothly in the circular economy? This latest issue of REMONDIS aktuell takes a closer look at the differences between rural districts and cities. It is, above all, the rural district authorities that turn to the private sector for help in providing a number of services – both in the circular economy as well as in the area of water and wastewater management. This approach not only promises to deliver the best services at sensible prices. It also has a major impact on how efficient their sustainability efforts actually are. With local authorities facing both an increased financial burden caused by the pandemic and an urgent need to renovate their infrastructure, it is well worth taking a closer look at the situation. 22% of local councillors believe that their local business tax revenue will be at least 10% lower in 2021 than it was in 2019. The majority of district and town councils, 64% to be precise, are planning to increase their local taxes and/or charges. There is certainly room for them to optimise their business operations in the area of cost-intensive key services, such as waste and water management, by systematically putting these services out to tender, extending their PPP arrangements or founding a new PPP company.

    We hope you enjoy reading this latest issue. Stay safe!

    Yours, Ludger Rethmann

A wide range of tasks

Over the last few decades, sewage treatment plants have become a real jack of all trades. Besides treating wastewater, modern sewage treatment plants act as a barrier for pollutants, recover minerals (such as phosphorus) and supply energy. They are, therefore, making an ever greater contribution towards sustainability and the circular economy. At the moment, they are even helping to fight Covid as tests carried out on wastewater samples provide valuable information about where the infection is most rampant.

Extensive wastewater monitoring activities

    • This not the first time, however, that wastewater monitoring has been used to identify and track the origins of trace substances, i.e. microscopic particles. At the end of the day, such plants must know the exact composition of their wastewater to be able to treat it in the best possible way. Monitoring wastewater to detect pathogens is, therefore, not new. As a general rule, the wastewater processed by a sewage treatment plant reflects the state of health of the local population; in the past, for example, these plants have picked up waves of infections, such as hepatitis and norovirus. Their wastewater samples enable on-the-spot information to be gathered about infection hotspots and the spread of infection – and can be used as an early warning system, for example, for new outbreaks in city districts most badly affected.

    Monitoring wastewater to detect pathogens is not new. And this is true for coronavirus as well. REMONDIS is collaborating closely with its partners to test wastewater samples: in more than 20 municipal sewage treatment plants.

    And this is true for coronavirus as well. REMONDIS is collaborating closely with its partners to test wastewater samples: this applies to more than 20 municipal sewage treatment plants operated by EURAWASSER, a fully owned REMONDIS Aqua subsidiary. Just one example here is the Cottbus sewage treatment plant which is closely monitoring coronavirus to track how this pathogen develops over time. To be able to do this, Lausitzer Wasser GmbH & Co. KG, a EURAWASSER company, entered into a cooperation with the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) in Leipzig, the TU Dresden and the DWA [German Association for Water, Wastewater and Waste] in November 2020. The goal here is to monitor the behaviour of the virus in real time and, by doing so, determine the infection rate in the population. REMONDIS is also making the most of the in-depth sampling, analysis and service know-how of its own accredited laboratory, AQS (Aqua Service Schwerin Beratungs- und Betriebsführungsgesellschaft mbH), for this project.

Sewage treatment plants can do more

    • Nowadays, however, a modern sewage treatment plant is not just a source of information about trace substances. It also performs many other functions including that of a raw materials supplier. Sewage sludge contains valuable raw materials such as phosphorus. With its patented REMONDIS TetraPhos® process and

    REMONDIS Aquatic Mining®, the company has developed two innovative solutions for the circular economy. What’s more, there is also a great deal of energy hidden in sewage sludge: biogas can be generated from this material in digesters that can then be transformed into climate-neutral energy in combined heat and power units. This, in turn, can be used as a source of energy for the sewage treatment plant itself or fed into the gas network as carbon-neutral biogas. The amount of biogas generated by REMONDIS each year is enough to keep 100,000 climate-neutral natural gas cars on the roads for a year.

  • “Nowadays, sewage treatment plants are complex technological operations that enable us to use the wastewater to recover valuable resources, produce sustainable energy, gather important information to keep everyone healthy – and, of course, to supply clean water.”

    Michael Figge, Managing Director of EURAWASSER Goslar

Energy from wastewater

  • A further innovative energy generation project began at EURAWASSER Goslar’s site back in 2014: the microbial fuel cell, BioBZ. Collaborating with the Clausthaler Umwelttechnik Forschungszentrum (CUTEC) and a number of other institutes, EURAWASSER has been looking closely at the potential of producing this green energy. It has already been determined that it is possible to produce electricity as a result of the organic substances in the wastewater being biologically broken down.

    All of which demonstrates that sewage treatment plants can offer much more than simply treating wastewater. Michael Figge, managing director of EURAWASSER Goslar, explained: “Nowadays, sewage treatment plants are complex technological operations that enable us to use the wastewater to recover valuable resources, produce sustainable energy, gather important information to keep everyone healthy – and, of course, to supply clean water.” The key here: to keep a close eye on all trace substances.

    Nowadays, a modern sewage treatment plant is not just a source of information about trace substances. It also performs many other functions including that of a raw materials supplier

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