Water is a very important resource to sustain our daily living. We hear of incidents around the world where pollution and contamination of primary water sources through the illegal discharge of effluents have reduced the availability of fresh and clean water for the citizens. We aim to eliminate this problem by putting in place a system that continuously monitors the presence of contaminants at locations where used water is usually discharged into the waterways. In Singapore, another important source of water is the reclamation of used water through numerous water treatment processes. To protect our used-water network, this system monitors and detects the discharge of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), such as benzene, toluene and xylene, into the network.
Why are VOCs of concern? Even at low concentrations, VOCs pose a potential risk to the community and society. The presence of VOCs can contribute to the failure of downstream used-water treatment processes through the direct inhibition of biomass growth. VOCs can also affect our ecosystem, as it is potentially toxic to micro-organisms. In certain industries, such as Pharmaceuticals, if the VOCs are not degraded during the biological treatment phase of the treatment process and are discharged to the environment as effluent, the results could be hazardous and disastrous. Most VOCs are easily vaporized and highly flammable, posing safety risks for several industries. Moreover, these vapours can cause significant health issues in both short term (eye, nose, throat irritation) and long-term exposure (asthma, allergic skin reaction, intermittent fever, neurological dysfunction and lung cancer).
How does our innovation work? Pipes connected to Gas Sensors are deployed near sewages, manholes and drainages, especially at locations where used-water from the industries are discharged into the used-water networks. The system monitors the gas reading and logs data continuously, for example, every 5 minutes. If the gas reading goes above the set threshold, the IoT module will send SMS alerts via Cloud or using a local SMS module to the stakeholders for investigations. The alerts will include gas readings and timestamps. A peristaltic pump will also be automatically activated to collect the water sample at the site (containing gas) at the time of the incident once the reading goes past the threshold. The collected data can be viewed via a dashboard for remote monitoring over the Internet.
How does our innovation impact the public and the environment? Well, the relevant governing authorities can make it mandatory for industries (who regularly discharge used water into the waterways) to put this system in place. Enforcement actions can be taken if VOCs are discharged beyond a specified level. At the same time, industries can practice good social responsibility through self-regulation and prevention. Through the remote monitoring via the Dashboard and real-time SMS alerts, the industries can take preventive actions should readings become dangerously high. In the event that the threshold is breached, corrective actions can be taken to do a clean-up of the waterways before the problem escalates. With nationwide deployment at public areas/environments, the timely detection of harmful VOC gas leakages can be done, thus preventing adverse health effects of the citizens and possible pollution to the environment.
Why choose our idea? This system is fully implementable and has a very large impact on protecting the precious water that we need daily. We can cite many recent incidents that highlight how illegal dumping of contaminants into the waterways have affected people and the environment. Firstly, just two months ago, the chemical fumes in Johor's Pasir Gudang which came from dumped oil waste resulted in a range of disastrous health consequences on the community. (https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/chemical-fumes-in-johors-pasir-gudang-were-from-dumped-oil-waste-report). The 2015 Gold King Mine waste water spill resulted in many dire consequences as well due to the magnitude of the incident (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015_Gold_King_Mine_waste_water_spill). The toxic foam that polluted India's sacred Yamuna River significantly impacted the lives of 12 million resident and many other Indians who depended heavily on the river (https://abcnews.go.com/International/toxic-foam-pollutes-indias-sacred-yamuna-river/story?id=57995346). These are just a few examples of what's happening around the world. It is time to start taking appropriate and concrete actions to prevent the illegal discharge of pollutants into water sources around the world, in order to keep our Earth and our people clean and safe.