Automating Wastewater Treatment

Royce Technologies


Wastewater treatment is a biological process, which means it uses bugs, or bacteria, to do all the work. The bugs feed on the waste matter and need oxygen to survive. Too little oxygen or too little food and the bugs begin to stress and become less effective. Too much food leads to too many bugs, which overloads the system. These crucial variable can be controlled by automation.

Royce Technologies is one of the most innovative company in the wastewater treatment automation industry. It got there by keeping the bugs happy. "The key is to keep moving millions of gallons of water each day through the plant ­ all the while keeping the bugs happy with just the right amounts of oxygen and food," says Jim Dartez, General Manager of Royce Technologies, which was acquired by ITT Industries in January 2002 and is now part of the Sanitaire value center.

In 1989, Royce revolutionized the industry with the introduction of an interface detector with no moving parts which could make instantaneous measurements of solid levels in clarifiers. In the late 1990s, it introduced the first color-compensating solid sensor, which optically measures the amount of food or waste in the system. "Other sensors get fooled by different colors in the water and give less accurate measurements," says Dartez. "Our system is color-compensating. To this day, nobody else has figured out how to do that."


Latest Breakthrough: SRT Controller
These breakthroughs set the table for Royce's latest industry innovation ­ the Solids Retention Time (SRT) Controller. This intelligent controller uses the information supplied by Royce's sensors to automatically make wasting decisions. It receives data from two to five solids and/or interface level analyzers, continuously performs a precise math algorithm utilizing the data, then automatically turns a 'wasting valve' which feeds the activated solids into the biological reactor (where the bacteria do their work) at the optimum level. Royce's technologies have taken wasting control to its highest level yet. In the past, wastewater plant operators would gather samples, wait for the solids to settle and dry in a laboratory, and then weigh them. It could take two to four hours, and only then would the operator be able to adjust the valves. "This is reacting to the process. With over two hours between sample gathering and valve adjustment, this process was almost worthless in maintaining true wasting control," says Louis Boccanfuso, the chief engineer who developed the SRT Controller for Royce.

Even in the slow-to-change wastewater industry, Royce's proactive and instantaneous process is winning converts. The City of Toronto has installed SRT Controllers at its biggest plant, and there are more than 20 units in place throughout North America and Europe.

To make inroads into the European market ­ where small plants are the norm ­ Royce is stripping down its SRT system into components, so the plants can buy the parts piecemeal over time. "Everything happens slowly in this industry, and right now there aren't a lot of people willing to trust electronics to run their plant," says Dartez. "But we're now landing 747s with nobody's hand on the wheel. Change is coming in our industry, too, and we'll be the ones making it happen."


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