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Life Cycle Assessment of Waste Water Treatment Plants in Ireland

Original scientific paper

Journal of Sustainable Development of Energy, Water and Environment Systems
Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 216-233
DOI: https://doi.org/10.13044/j.sdewes.2016.04.0018
Greg Mcnamara1, Lorna Fitzsimons1 , Matthew Horrigan1, Thomas Phelan1, Yan Delaure1, Brian Corcoran1, Edelle Doherty2, Eoghan Clifford2
1 School of Mechanical Engineering, Dublin City University, Glasnevin, Dublin 9, Ireland
2 Civil Engineering, College of Engineering and Informatics, National University of Ireland Galway, University Road, Galway, Ireland


The Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive 91/271/EEC introduced a series of measures for the purpose of protecting the environment from the adverse effects of effluent discharge from wastewater treatment plants. There are environmental costs associated with attaining the required level of water quality set out in the directive such as greenhouse gas emissions due to energy production, and ecotoxicity from sludge application to land. The goal of this study is to assess the environmental costs in an Irish context, focusing specifically on the effects of variation in scale and discharge limitation. Life cycle assessment is the analytical tool used to evaluate the environmental impact. The life cycle impact assessment methodology developed by the Centre of Environmental Science, Leiden University (2010) has been adopted and implemented using GaBi 6.0 life cycle assessment software. Two plants of varying size and location were chosen for the study. The study found that energy consumption and sludge application to land are the largest contributors to the overall environmental impact associated with the treatment process at both plants. Economies of scale were observed in energy usage during secondary aeration.

Keywords: Wastewater treatment, Life cycle assessment, Energy, Sludge disposal, Anaerobic digestion, Discharge limitations.

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