European environmental agency legislation restrict companies in their urban wastewater treatment (91/27/EEC EC directive). One of the main principles of this directive is the necessary monitoring through specific parameters, analytical methods and sampling frequency. Member states are required to ensure that both discharges from wastewater treatment plants, and receiving waters are monitored. This applies, among others, to the chemical, pharmaceutical, agrochemical, food, biocides, processing and cosmetics industries.
One of the aspects that have to be monitored, is the ecotoxicological effect of the industry’s wastewater. For example, during the production phase, companies in Flanders have to analyze this effect 4 times per year (imposed by discharge permit). The advantage of the Qinetiq technology is the continuous online monitoring of algae instead of a snapshot lab analysis. Currently, the industry assumes certain safety margins in its production capacity to prevent environmental damage. With continuous wastewater monitoring, safety margins could be reduced and consequently, production increased. Production companies need to guarantee (both on a legal and insurance level) that they are not the source of water pollution. Continuous monitoring would prevent any legal claim and could reduce insurance fees. The European Environment Legislation emphasizes the importance of measuring ecological relevant parameters, directly in the ecosystem, which could be performed with this Qinetiq technology.
Qinetiq aims to offer a cheap and easy to use algae toxicity analyzer. The online monitoring will allow companies to :
- Avoid environmental claims, because they can demonstrate results of their continuous monitoring,
- Reduce insurance fees (5-50k€ benefit/ year),
- Have cost and time savings because they don’t need to shut down or slow down production during pollution investigation,
- Optimize production because they can narrow environmental safety margins,
- Demonstrate legal compliance easily and at every moment (avoid legal claims),
- Demonstrate a professional, sustainable company image.
Nowadays, this technology is used for scientific research. Qinetiq has developed a small sensor using the technology and wants to bring a plug-and-play version incorporated in an analyzer to the markets bound to European environment legislation.
The technology was necessary to fulfill the requirements for a microgravity research project. Innovation is a continuous measurement instead of sampling and miniaturization.