Formiche Alto, the first town that eliminates nitrates from slurry in a biological way –Periódico de Aragón–

On the occasion of World Environment Day, El Periódico de Aragón talks about an innovative system developed by Ingeobras to eliminate nitrates from slurry through bacteria that purify water.

You can read the full story here.

“Formiche Alto, the first village to eliminate nitrates from slurry biologically.

In Aragon there are many localities with a high level of pollution. A company uses a pioneering system using bacteria to purify the water.

Formiche Alto, in the Maestrazgo region, has become the first Aragonese municipality to apply a pioneering system that biologically combats the problem of nitrates. This highly polluting substance is produced by the excretion of slurry and by fertilisers, and is an increasingly widespread problem for aquifers and, therefore, for human consumption and supply.

This system, designed by the Zaragoza engineering company Ingeobras – which is currently modernising irrigation in Azerbaijan and has several projects around the world – has the advantage that it is much cheaper and less polluting than a conventional treatment plant. There are two methods of nitrate removal: the conventional one, which is by concentrating water heavily laden with nitrates, or a more biological one, which involves the application of nitrate- and carbon-feeding bacteria that act as a biological filter. By means of a reagent, they convert nitrate into nitrogen, which is then released into the atmosphere without generating any danger to the environment.

As the manager of Ingeobras, Joaquín Murría, states, “this system is suitable for populations of up to 3,000 or 5,000 inhabitants, it is very economical and does not pollute, which puts an end to the search for wells and overexploitation”. In this way, this system could serve practically 90% of the Aragonese territory. In Catalonia, where there is a saturation of pig farms, it is beginning to be implemented, and in Aragon it could be applied in more municipalities in the future.

Supervised by the Aragonese Water Institute, the Formiche Alto project is a plant that can be executed in three months and whose construction cost does not exceed 70,000 euros.

This biological denitrification technology eliminates nitrate to levels of 95%, and allows the capacity to reuse the wash water or discharge it directly into the sewage system, by means of a simple installation and without the need for complex projects. Another advantage is its low electricity consumption, which allows the use of alternative energy sources.

The problem in Formiche Alto is no different to that of a good number of Aragonese regions, where nitrate levels of 40 milligrams per litre are being exceeded, a figure that is considered very high and which, if it exceeds 50%, means that human consumption must be banned. It is estimated that approximately 20% of Aragon could suffer from this problem, so the use of technology of this type is becoming increasingly necessary.

The traditional system in the majority of small Aragonese municipalities is that when there are problems of excess nitrates, the municipality carries out other surveys to change the well, but within two years the problems reappear.

The interest of this locality in solving a problem that could become a public health problem led them to learn about this system and to contact the company that carries it out. There are currently six employees working on the project, out of a total staff of 14 with engineering and water projects in other parts of the world”.