Microwave based faecal sludge treatment
Portable microwave based treatment system for on-site faecal sludge treatment for the humanitarian and development WASH sector


Abstract submitted to Arab Water Week, 19-22 March 2017, Jordan

Integrated mobile approach for faecal and septic sludge treatment, reuse and disposal using microwave irradiation

C.M. Hooijmansa, E. Kocbeka, H.A. Garciaa, Z. Dalalab, M. Aladdousb, D. Brdjanovica

a Department of Environmental Engineering and Water Technology, IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, Westvest 7, 2611 AX Delft, The Netherlands

b School of National Resources Engineering and Management, German Jordanian University (GJU), P.O.Box 35247, Amman 11180, Jordan


Adequate wastewater disposal, due to high investment cost of wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) and sewage systems, benefits mostly wealthy populations who are connected to a sewer system. People in slum areas and emergency camps are faced with inadequate sanitation solutions increasing the risk of being affected by serious health problems, including the onset of epidemics such as cholera [1]. Currently it is not possible to provide these communities with improved sanitation in the short term. This research focuses on faecal sludge (FS) treatment and disposal which can be rapidly deployed upon the event of an emergency and are effective under challenging physical conditions e.g. high water tables and flood-prone areas. The proposed FS treatment technology has the potential to mitigate the drawbacks of non-sewered sanitation solutions with a compact and efficient system, and thus is a serious effort to alleviate the health conditions of the less privileged people.

Despite the existence of many WWTPs, FS management is a problem in Jordan. In most cases individual sewage disposal systems such as septic tanks and pits are used. Jordan has received a high number of Syrian refugees. They are present in large refugee camps, but also spread over the country, exacerbating the poor sanitation situation in the rural areas in Jordan.

The general research objective is the application and testing of the performance and user acceptance of a novel pilot scale MicroWave (MW) irradiation system for FS treatment (‘’Sludge killer”) in case of a protracted crisis. MW irradiation is a very efficient way of pathogen kill off due to its unique nature in rapid heating, and promising for FS drying as well [2, 3, 4]. In situations were a lot of FS is produced, the MW system can be applied as a compact and easily portable as well as fast and effective FS treatment package system and reduced footprints [5]. The focus of the MW unit is on treatment. However, the end qualifications of the treatment product are related to the end-use options, reuse in agriculture, and as fuel generation, might be possible options in Jordan.

The MW treatment system for Jordan will need to be constructed on the basis of the acquired knowledge and feedback. During a stakeholder meeting it became clear that the FS in Jordan might contain relatively large amounts of water, which can be divided into two waste flows: polluted water and concentrated sludge. The water flow, as well as the condensate from the MW unit will be treated with UltraFiltration (UF) and Reverse Osmosis (RO). RO is already widely applied in Jordan for brackish water treatment for drinking water production. The RO membrane of the reactor set-up is important as the water has to comply with the 2016 standards for restricted irrigation. At present sludge goes to landfills in Jordan, as there is no public acceptance for application. However, since 2006 the standard allows sludge as a soil conditioner and fertiliser for fodder. The system will be optimized and applied together with the German Jordan University, who will also investigate the application of solar energy for optimizing the energy consumption of the MW system, and with involvement of the Water Authority of Jordan.


[1] Tappero, J.W., Tauxe, R.V., 2011. Lessons learned during public health response to cholera epidemic in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Emerg. Infect. Dis. 17, 2087–2093.

 [2] Hong, S.M., Park, J.K., Lee, Y.O., 2004. Mechanisms of microwave irradiation involved in the destruction of fecal coliforms from biosolids. Water Res. 38, 1615–1625.

[3] Tyagi, V.K., Lo, S.-L., 2013. Microwave irradiation: a sustainable way for sludge treatment and resource recovery. Renew. Sust. Energ. Rev. 18, 288–305.

 [4] Mawioo, P.M., Rweyemamu A, Garcia, H.A., Hooijmans, C.M., Brdjanovic, D. (2016) Evaluation of a microwave based reactor for the treatment of black water sludge. Science of the Total Environment 548-549: 72-81.

[5] Mawioo, P.M., Hooijmans, C.M., Garcia, H.A., Brdjanovic, D. (2016) Microwave treatment of faecal sludge from intensively used toilets in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. Journal of Environmental Management 184, Part 3, 575-584.