Photo: Sabina Askholm Larsen, DTU Civil Engineering

Waste and wastewater management in the Arctic require locally adaptable solutions

Thursday 28 Apr 16
|
by Sabina Askholm Larsen

Contact

Pernille Erland Jensen
Associate Professor
DTU Civil Engineering
+4545 25 22 55
There is an increasing interest in new technological solutions for waste and wastewater management in remote towns and settlements in the Arctic. That is one of the conclusions from DTU Civil Engineering’s international conference ARTEK Event 2016, where several solutions to handle the issue were presented. With over 100 participants and 55 presentations, the attendance for the conference was by far the largest ever.

Vast distances and residential areas located several hundred kilometres apart are characteristic for the Arctic. Therefore, there is a growing interest in solutions for waste and wastewater management adapted to remote towns and villages where connection to a central solution is not a straightforward practice.

That was one of the conclusions from the international conference ARTEK Event 2016, recently organised by the Centre for Arctic Technology (ARTEK) at DTU Civil Engineering. With over 100 participants and 55 presentations, ARTEK Event 2016 was by far the largest since the conference started in 2005.

The topic of the conference was "Sanitation in Cold Climate Regions", and particularly new methods of waste and wastewater management were on the agenda. The conference was held in the West Greenlandic town of Sisimiut where ARTEK teaches the BEng programme Arctic Engineering. Here, students are trained specifically to work in Arctic conditions.

Focus on locally adaptable and portable solutions

"It is clear to me that we have some common challenges across the Arctic countries, but that there is also a need to develop local solutions that meet the needs of the specific community they are designed for."
Pernille Erland Jensen

The infrastructure in and to remote areas in the Arctic are often non-existing or, at best, scarce. This means that the transportation of materials can be extremely difficult. Therefore, it is important to develop solutions that can be installed and operated by locals to a large extend.

Architect Aaron Cooke focuses on this type of solution. He works as a project manager at the Cold Climate Housing Research Center in Alaska and was among the speakers at ARTETK Event 2016. Several coastal areas in Alaska are impacted by erosion due to climate change. In some locations the coasts eat their way 25 meters into the country per year, and in the coming years there will be a need to relocate several smaller towns and settlements currently located near the coast, stated Aaron Cooke in his presentation.

On this basis, Aaron Cooke and his colleagues are working on developing a decentralized and portable solution that can provide the residents of remote communities with decent conditions for toilets and water supply.

The basic idea behind the project is that it is necessary to divert from the idea that a central solution to which all households in a community are connected, is the only right solution in the Arctic. It is necessary to think in new and more flexible ways, was the encouragement from Aaron Cooke and several other presenters at the conference.

Cooperation throughout the Arctic

The conference attracted participants from all Arctic countries: USA, Canada, Russia, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark – including participants from Greenland and the Faroe Islands. The broad interest provided an opportunity to get acquainted with new technological solutions as well as new potential partners. This pleases Pernille Erland Jensen, Associate Professor at DTU Civil Engineering and responsible for ARTEK Event 2016.

"It has been very interesting to hear about the challenges that the Arctic countries are facing with regard to improving the sanitary conditions in the most remote areas. It is clear to me that we have some common challenges across the Arctic countries, but that there is also a need to develop local solutions that meet the needs of the specific community they are designed for. That is not an easy task, "says Pernille Erland Jensen.

Although the task is not easy, Pernille Erland Jensen is optimistic. ARTEK Event 2016 was used as a starting point for several new partnerships, both on a scientific level and between researchers and public authorities responsible for waste and wastewater management.

"The fact that more than 100 people found their way to Sisimiut to discuss the health challenges we face in the Arctic is proof that there is certainly an interest in improving the current conditions among researchers, companies and authorities. I am excited to follow the many interesting projects that were presented at the conference and to get started with the new partnerships we set up during the conference," concludes Pernille Erland Jensen.