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4 Questions: With waste water expert Rob Jamieson

Posted by Engineering Communicaitons on March 3, 2014 in Research, News
Rob Jamieson, Canada Research Chair in Cold Regions  Ecological Engineering
Rob Jamieson, Canada Research Chair in Cold Regions Ecological Engineering

Article orginally printed in The Herald March 3, 2014

For years, Rob Jamieson has been investigating how Nova Scotia handles its wastewater and stormwater.

Equipped with that experience, the Dalhousie University engineer took his skills to the Arctic in 2010 and recently landed a prestigious Canada Research Chair for his work there. From mid-June to the end of September, he can be found in Nunavut.

In between, he’s still tackling Bible Hill’s sewage.

What does your lab look like?

“We have a facility where we’ve kind of tapped into the town of Bible Hill’s sewer line, so we’re able to pump wastewater up to our research site and load wastewater into different types of experimental treatment systems. You’d have cat-tails and other wetland vegetation growing within engineered berm ponds, (as well as) on-site wastewater treatment systems. So, if you had a house out in the country, you would have your own wastewater treatment system that would be installed underground. In terms of what that would look like, you wouldn’t actually see much if you go up to the Bible Hill site, because all the systems are actually buried underground and you’d just see a bunch of pipes sticking up.”

What’s the trickiest thing about wastewater disposal in the Arctic?

“It’s very challenging to use what we consider to be conventional mechanical wastewater treatment plants in this area, and that’s due to climate. But it’s also due in large part to the remoteness of these communities. All of these towns that we’re working in in Nunavut are only accessible by air or by sea. So when, you know, pumps break down or other mechanical parts malfunction and you have to fly in new parts, or possibly people to replace those parts, it can get very expensive and very time consuming.”

Did field work at Dalhousie help you when you went up north

“(In Nova Scotia) I was looking at how we could better engineer constructed wetlands to treat wastewater. It turns out that up in Nunavut, many of the communities use some form of wetland system for wastewater treatment.”

How is Nova Scotia doing in terms of its wastewater disposal?

“I’d say it’s doing quite well as compared to the rest of the country. I’d say Nova Scotia’s actually kind of different from many other provinces because a large part of our population (about 50 per cent) relies on on-site wastewater treatment systems as opposed to being hooked up to a centralized sewage treatment plane. We’ve had a lot of experience experimenting with different types of designs. We’ve actually had people from across Canada and from down in the States contact us asking to get more information on the types of designs that we use here in Nova Scotia because they are so novel.”