EghtesadOnline: Completion of the second phase of a wastewater treatment plant in Tabriz, East Azarbaijan Province, will help supply four cubic meters of water per second to Lake Urmia or 125 million cubic meters a year, director of the provincial Water and Wastewater Company said.
“Construction of the plant is 80% complete and it has been designed to cover one million people,” Alireza Imanlou was quoted as saying by the Energy Ministry news website.
The National Water and Wastewater Engineering Company of Iran (Abfa) started work on the project in 2016 and has spent close to 2,000 billion rials ($10 million) so far, which was borrowed from the National Development Fund of Iran, the country's sovereign wealth fund, he said.
The second phase of the plant will increase the current capacity (130 cubic meters per day) to 207,000 cm/d, a large part of which will be diverted to the lake.
Instead of the conventional activated sludge process, the plant is equipped with step-feed aeration system in which primary effluent enters the aeration tank at several points along the length of the tank, rather than at the beginning or head of the tank.
Currently, seven wastewater processing units are in varying stages of construction in the province and after completion will significantly raise the effluent processing capacity, Imanlou said.
Speaking during a visit to the plant, he said, "Tabriz is a big city (population 1.6 million) and produces a huge amount of wastewater that is a good to feed the lake despite its long distance from the lake.”
Close to 70% of Tabriz's urban areas are connected to the wastewater system.
Developing wastewater facilities is in line with guidelines of Urmia Lake Restoration Project that has tasked towns and cities in the vicinity of Lake Urmia’s catchment area to treat their wastewater and direct it toward the lake.
An estimated 60 million cubic meters of reclaimed wastewater enters Urmia Lake every year, part of which is from treatment plants in Naqadeh, Urmia, Mahabad, Miandoab, Salmas and Boukan in the northwestern province.
Expanded Surface Area
In related news, the portal quoted Masoud Tajrishi, the Urmia Lake Restoration Project administrator and director of the planning office, as saying that the size of the lake had dwindled to less than 1,780 square kilometers in 2014 and ULPR helped raise the area to 3,000 km2.
“The surface area of Iran’s largest inland body of water (Lake Urmia) has increased 68% over the past six years.”
Had it not been for the restoration plan, the lake would dry up and salt storms would seriously endanger the livelihood of more than 6.5 million people over a 120-kilometer radius, he said.
Dispute over the potential health hazards of the lake was a regular feature of the local media in 2013 (before the ULRP’s mandate), with those involved in the restoration program warning about high blood pressure and respiratory diseases caused by the dying lake.
Residents of surrounding villages, even as far as Tabriz, had been inhaling salt-laden air between 2013 and 2015, leading to high BP. Increase in the density of solid salt particles in the air posed a grave risk to public health.
“Based on satellite images of the lake in 2014, its decreasing surface area had caused expansion of salt planes with high albedo (proportion of the incident light or radiation reflected by a surface) affecting the thermal balance of the atmosphere above the lake,” Tajrishi said.
Located between the provinces of East and West Azarbaijan, Urmia Lake is a closed water body fed through 21 permanent and 39 seasonal rivers.
It started to desiccate 10 years ago due to a variety of factors, including the construction of a 15-km causeway to shorten travel time between Urmia and Tabriz cities and construction of several dams that have choked off water supply from the mountains on both sides of the lake.