As a premier institution of higher education in the Philippines, De La Salle University employs waste management and sewage treatment schemes that continually improve in order to provide better service to the Lasallian community.
Improvement efforts were briefly discussed by Buildings and Grounds Management Office (BGMO) Director Mylene Grecia, Civil Works and Maintenance Civil and Sanitary Works Office (CSWO) Engineer Anthony Dorde, CSWO Director Rolando Oliva, Campus Sustainability Office (CSO) Environmental Engineer Maricris Elemos, and CSO University Pollution Control Officer Myklim Casibang.
Waste management of the Manila campus
Casibang indicates that waste collected from the University is divided into four groups when it comes to segregation, namely: Biodegradable, recyclable, residual, and hazardous wastes. Moreover, he also states that the average waste that the University produces is 1,017.74 kg per day.
When the BGMO and CSO conducted a Wastes Analysis and Characterization Study (WACS) last June 2016, it was reported that biodegradables composed most of the waste that was collected, with a total of 534.56 kg. Casibang adds that hazardous waste were found mixed with the solid waste despite supposed segregation, which pose hazards to the Lasallian community.
Grecia shares that the city government collects food wastes every day. While chemical waste, which also includes hazardous waste, is handled by the CSO. Electronic waste is taken care of by the Inventory Management Office (IMO).
Despite clear segregation markers in the University’s trash bins, BGMO personnel would sometimes still have to separate wastes manually. The garbage bags used in the University are color coded which would make things easier for garbage collection of the city government. Soon, stricter rules will be implemented by the city government of Manila for a scheduled waste collection system.
Currently, the University is in the process of creating a program that reduces the generation of waste of the campus, which will either involve adopting an ideal practice or a modern method of waste management.
Casibang shares that a Solid Waste Management Plan is also being developed. The plan aims to achieve 100 percent waste diversion by way of implementing mandatory waste segregation and recycling initiatives for the University. A waste hierarchy approach will also be applied, specifically to reduce, reuse, recycle, and recovery waste products.
This year, Casibang reveals that a new collection scheme will be imposed to aid in the University’s compliance in terms of waste segregation. He adds that there are other activities which will be done in conjunction with the new collection scheme, such as the improvement of the Materials Recovery Facility, strategic distribution of bins, and an Information Education Campaign in partnership with the student organizations.
Grecia, on the other hand, has begun weighing the waste generated by each building in the University to aid the CSO in gathering data for a self-monitoring report.
Grecia explains that the recycling schemes of the University are still a work in progress and that they have been collaborating with an external company and with the USG for the matter.
As of press time, the BGMO remains in charge of collecting PET bottles and carton boxes for recycling. Any remaining recyclable materials are passed to the IMO, who in turn contacts scrap buyers to dispose of the remaining waste.
Sewage treatment plan explained
The current system, called the Sequencing Batch Reactor (SBR) treatment plant was conceived in 2001 by the administration in coordination with students from the Gokongwei College of Engineering (GCOE). Numerous criteria were considered before such type of treatment was chosen.
First, the space and operability of the facilities must be taken into account. Given the limited space available within the University, unified treatment plants are not advisable as they require large amounts of space. Treatment plants such as Activated Sludge Plants, Rotating Disc Systems, and Submerged Aerated Filters were immediately not considered.
Secondly, budget was also of prime concern. Unified treatment plants were removed from consideration due to the cost of building them.
Third, usefulness to the Lasallian community was also accounted for. Since the SBR plant type is more compact and fully automated compared to the others, collecting data from it is less tedious. This allows the plant to cater to students who need to conduct experiments on sewage systems.
Efficiency and maintenance
The University currently houses four treatment plants which are located in Yuchengco Hall, the Science and Technology Research Center, William Hall, and Henry Sy Sr. Building.
According to Dorde, machine failures are inevitable considering the amount of time the plants are used. Thus, to ensure that the water treatment equipment is running efficiently, preventive maintenance measures are being done periodically depending on the lifespan of each part of the systems.
Two filtration systems are currently being used, namely the sand and the carbon filtration systems. Sand filtration removes suspended solids from water while carbon filtration eliminates numerous chemicals and bad odor.
Dorde shares that the sand filter is usually the first to clog, as tiny particles accumulate on top of the sand, a phenomenon they call “caking.” Due to the possible clogging of the systems, the water meter is constantly monitored. Water pressure above 10 psi (pounds per square inch) implies that the filter might be clogged and replacement of the affected parts is needed. In case of severe problems, the CSWO consults with the engineers who built the system.
Odors and pungent scents, especially in toilets within the University, are caused by a malfunctioning carbon filter. Dorde states that the University is currently adopting the new German Glass Filter technology, which has a lifespan of 10 to 15 years compared to the one year lifespan of the current carbon filters.
New effluent water standards
Under the new Department of Environment and Natural Resources Administrative Order (DAO) No. 2016-08, wastewater quality guidelines have become stricter.
Elemos mentions that the revised DAO indicates Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) of the wastewater to be reduced to 30 gallons per liter from the original 50, requiring the wastewater discharged by the University to be cleaner. The revised DAO also indicates new requirements for ammonia and phosphate levels, among others.
Since the University’s treatment plants were designed to comply with older standards, modifications of the plants are needed. The DAO gives a five-year grace period to maintain and upgrade all non-complying systems. Non-compliance with the guidelines will incur a P10,000 fine per day. Dorde ensures the Lasallian community that no disruption of water supplies will be experienced during the upgrading efforts.
“The University has 16 accounts with MERALCO, all corresponding to the different buildings within the University. Our average consumption in 2015 was 1,037,347 kWh. Last year, it was 1,167,592 kWh,” Elemos shared.
Due to the high power consumption, sustainability initiatives are being enacted by the University. For instance, an LED Project was introduced by the CSO with the Mechanical and Electrical Works Office (MEWO) last 2013. It aimed to replace conventional fluorescent lamps with energy-efficient LED lighting. Elemos indicated that 5,677 four-foot fluorescent lamps have been changed to 18-watt LED lamps, and that 578 two-foot fluorescent lamps were also replaced to 10-watt LED lamps.
Br. John, Br. Connon, Miguel, William, Br. Andrew Gonzalez, and Gokongwei halls all currently have LED lights installed in classrooms, offices, hallways, and restrooms.
To promote energy conservation, CSO began placing energy use reminders in classrooms to serve as a reminder for students to help conserve energy in the University. The CSO is also exploring ways to tap renewable energy to aid in the University’s electrical needs.