Wastewater system challenges conventional wisdom


The country’s fixation for water borne sewage and large energy hungry wastewater treatment plants that more often ‘waste’ this valuable resource, is about to be challenged at grass roots level with an exciting concept that is modular, easily expandable, simple to install and maintain, has very low energy requirements and recycles treated wastewater on site at less than R1,88/kℓ.

JV celebrated

The Clarus Fusion Sewage Treatment Sytem features 50%+ local manufacture by Maskam Water through a joint venture (JV) with the Zoeller Pump Company of the USA. The system was shown to dignitaries and invited guests at the company’s Brakenfell Industria premises at the end of October.

The occasion was to commemorate the JV and the unveiling of the largest unit yet supplied to the local market, which will treat 15,000ℓ/day of black or grey water and serve up to 100 people.

Dignitaries in attendance included Minister Alan Winde, MEC of Agriculture, Economic Development and Tourism Western Cape and United States Consul General, Mr Teddy Taylor.

Both stressed the environmental, social and economic benefits of bilateral cooperation to South Africa and the USA in their address to the audience which included local municipal councillors, retired mayors from surrounding municipalities, Billy Walker, Zoeller’s International Accounts Manager and other influential guests.

Change of mind set needed

Maskam’s founder and CEO Gerhard Cronje is adamant that the Clarus Fusion system is a radical but entirely appropriate solution for addressing developing countries sanitation needs. “From the first time I ‘discovered’ the Fusion system through our JV agreement with Zoeller, I realised that a complete change of mind set is required to solve our pressing sanitation needs in formal, informal and remote rural areas” he says.

“The traditional approach has been to provide water borne sanitation through a network of underground piping, sometimes requiring pumping stations, into a conventional wastewater treatment plant, which then discharges the treated wastewater into rivers and water courses with a limited amount being used for irrigation or industrial use.

“Most smaller formal communities simply discharge the treated wastewater or final effluent into rivers thereby wasting millions of litres of recyclable water – which is shamefully ironic in the drought situation we find ourselves in today.”

There are many that have found the advantages of the Fusion system appealing and the idea of utilising recycled grey water for sanitation, irrigation or industrial water usage. The company have sold more than 120 Fusion units since acquiring the licencing rights from Zoeller in 2010 across its agreed territories of sub Saharan Africa, the UAE and Mauritius. More than 20 units have been supplied to customers in the Stellenbosch area and businesses have installed units where the wastewater is used for irrigation purposes. As the system is modular, capacity increases can be accommodated by simply adding another unit.

Unlike conventional treatment plans which have to be constructed – at great cost – to cater for planned expansion at the initial stage, Fusion units can simply be added to accommodate demand as and when needed.

“Give me water”

Cronje says that he was exposed to the Clarus Fusion system in 2009 when negotiating a licencing agreement with Zoeller to import its range of pumps. Zoeller Pump Company -established in the USA in 1939 – have a 34% market share of the US market and were looking at developing overseas markets for its products when the local US Commercial Service in Cape Town identified Maskam Water as a potential partner.

Maskam is named after the northern tip of the Matzikama Mountains in Namaqualand, a semi desert area 300km north of Cape Town. Matzikama means “give me water”

Successful negotiations followed and although Zoeller’s products are sold in over 50 countries, Maskam is the only company outside of Zoeller’s home base to be trusted to manufacture the company’s products locally.

Local manufacture creates jobs – expands product capabilities

“We have achieved a local content of 46% on the Fusion units” says Cronje “which will be increased to more than 50% by 2017. We use a local company to manufacture the fibreglass shells of the Fusion units and as our SABS standards for electrical systems are different from those in the USA it giving us scope to increase local content still further. In agreement with Zoeller, we have added our accessories to the basic concept to cater for our local conditions and requirements thereby extending the product’s capabilities and applications, thus offering turn-key solutions to our customers” he says.

“The future of Fusion in this region is bright” says Cronje “it will not only help to solve the pressing issues of dignified sanitation to millions of people but save hundreds of millions of litres of water. The technology benefits are overwhelming! Some of the biggest problems with conventional and packaged plants currently available are through the lack of maintenance and the shortage of skilled people to perform these tasks. The Fusion system only requires sludge removal once every four to six years, and one hour of routine maintenance every six months, and that can be accomplished using unskilled labour. The low energy requirements of the system – typically between 60W for the smallest unit and 340W for the largest, can be supplied by solar PV. A real win-win situation,” he concluded.