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A giant water treatment plant


APRIL 15 – 30, 1996


A giant water treatment plant

BEIJING—It is estimated that only 5 percent of sewage and industrial waste is treated in developing countries.   The rest is dumped into rivers and landfills, polluting vital sources of water.

Beijing, has a total population of 11 million people. The urban city population is 5 million and the sewage produced daily is 2 million tons. Only about 12 percent of this was treated in the  past and the rest was discharged into the Tonghui and Lianghui rivers causing serious environmental pollution. At the lame time Beijing is a city facing acute water shortage. The government decided to build the  Beijing Gao Bei Dian Sewage treatment Plant in 1990.  It cost 600 milliion RMB($74 million) and  was funded by the Beijing Government and a loan from the Japanese Government.

Yang Xiang-Ping is the director of the plant. “This is the largest facility of its kind in Beijing,” Yang said, “We cover an area of 65 square miles and provide service to 2.3 million people.”  Everyday, the plant treats 0.5 million tons of sewage and by the year 2000 it will treat one million tons a day said rang.

After a series of processes the water is separated from the sludge and the clean water can then be discharged into the river or used or irrigation. About 100,000tons a day is used as cooling water for a thermal plant located nearby.

“Residents who live near here have told us that the river is getting cleaner and there is less smell from pollution,” Yang said. The sludge is treated further and some of it is turned into bio gas. The volume of sludge is thus reduced from 20,000 tons to 300 tons. “If the heavy metal content is not too high we send it to fertilizer plants. If it is higher than the state minimum level, we have to send it for disposal,” Yang said. Now the state has imposed stronger standards on industry to reduce the heavy metal content of the waste he said.

The operational cost of the plant is 45 million RMB ($6.4 million) annually, which roughly

translates into 3 cents per cubic meter of water treated. Some of the costs are recovered from the industrial sector who pay for disposal and from consumers who pay for water.