Organic waste Handling
Since 1999, there have been heightened requirements for the treatment of wastewater in Iceland. Conventional sewage treatment plants purify wastewater to remove infectious materials and ensure treated water will not contaminate lakes and rivers. Natural purification processes for wastewater result in nutrients being returned to nature. Solheimar is home to the first natural wastewater treatment system in Iceland. It is based on the principles of so-called “synthetic wetlands.” It involves several steps to clean and return the wastewater generated in the village back into nature.
The first step is septic tanks where sewage treatment occurs. From there, the effluent is led through the next phase of the process, which is a journey through four squares of artificial wetlands, formed of Icelandic wetland plants, among other things. Wetland ecosystems absorb large amounts of nutrients due to their rapid growth and productivity, so they are ideal for cleaning sewage. Wetland ecosystems are also quickly formed, generating many plants and microorganisms that integrate with surrounding landscapes. This is an ideal environmentally-friendly solution as it is cheap, simple and swift.
Sesseljuhus, however, decided to pioneer further in its sewage treatment and aimed to have completely environmentally friendly sewers, with all wastewater from the building being returned to the world truly pure and without causing any pollution. This required the installation of a sewage system that had not yet existed in the country.
Wastewater separators or “Aqua Trons” have the task of separating the solid waste from the liquid sewage and waste water with a continual process of natural degradation in soil. The diagram below shows how the process works:
2. Sewage from the toilets (2) is run through a separator which divides the solid from the liquid waste. Separation is about 98% accurate and is done through centrifugal force.
3. Solid waste and toilet paper (3) fall into a chamber where natural breakdown occurs with the help of worms, who eventually break down the material to about 5% of its original volume. The transformation of the collection takes about three months. After a year, the waste in the first chamber becomes soil usable in this process.
4. Liquid wastewater (4) is processed in the artificial wetlands to be cleaned and returned into nature, pure and clean.