IBROM – Integrated Biological and Reverse Osmosis Membrane
SDWF scientists from around the world contributed to the development of the Integrated Biological Reverse Osmosis Membrane (IBROM) drinking water treatment process which is redefining the future of water treatment, not only in Canada but around the world. The IBROM treatment system was developed on some of the most challenging source waters anywhere in the world and produces a drinking water quality which surpasses the most stringent of all international water quality standards while leaving the smallest possible environmental footprint. First developed on ground water at Yellow Quill First Nation it has now been perfected and implemented full scale on surface water at Saddle Lake Cree Nation. The IBROM system can be implemented anywhere in the world and is more cost effective and environmentally friendly than conventional treatment systems (i.e., manganese greensand, etc.). When a ten year operating budget is taken into consideration the IBROM is undoubtedly the system of choice, with low operating costs and the only truly sustainable water treatment system available to our knowledge.
Water quality that is second to none - How does it work??
The IBROM treatment system, as the name suggests, uses microorganisms to remove contaminants such as iron, arsenic, sodium, and sulfate to name a few, instead of using oxidants or chemicals that are commonly used in conventional treatment systems. Conventional treatment systems rely on various chemicals to oxidize the contaminants that are found in source waters; these chemicals are often fruitless when dealing with very poor source waters. Therefore, instead of using chemicals/oxidants, the IBROM system utilizes naturally occurring bacteria, in a controlled environment, to remove the contaminants from the treated water. Following this step, the treated water then goes through a Reverse Osmosis membrane and then slight amounts of chlorine are added to prevent contamination in the distribution system. What’s interesting is that the IBROM treatment system renders water so pure, that the treated water must pass through a mineral bed of calcium and magnesium to increase pH and add nutrients that are beneficial to human health. The IBROM treatment system is currently operational in five First Nation (i.e., George Gordon, Paskwa, Dakota Dunes, Yellow Quill, and Saddle Lake Cree Nation) communities and is in the process of becoming operational in many other First Nation communities.
Cost effective and environmentally friendly!!
In addition to the health benefits of procuring safe drinking water, the IBROM system is significantly more cost effective and environmentally friendly than the conventional manganese greensand treatment system. A quick comparison between the IBROM system and the manganese greensand system at George Gordon First Nation shows the following: biological filters (IBROM) need to be backwashed 36 times less than the manganese greensand filters; backwash water has decreased to .4 million litres (IBROM) from 23 million litres (i.e., 98% decrease in water usage); backwash labour has decreased to 40 hours from 1,440 hours per year (i.e., 97% decrease); and it is estimated that over $100,000.00 is saved each year when considering the reduction in chemical costs, the infrequent membrane cleanings, and the reduction in human labour. Clearly, the IBROM treatment technology is highly innovative and tantamount to this, very practical and sustainable.
In 2001, the SDWF was contacted by Yellow Quill First Nation (located approximately 300 km from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan) concerning the deplorable state of the community's drinking water. Prior to 2001, Yellow Quill First Nation had been on a boil water advisory since 1995 because of poor source water and inefficient treatment equipment. Dr. Peterson (SDWF Principle Scientist) agreed to intervene and undertook a nearly two year long research endeavour where he lived on the reserve and tested, developed, and piloted various treatment processes. At the end of the two years, Dr. Peterson and other SDWF scientists had devised a treatment process that was not only unconventional, but one that actually worked. Thus marked the inception of the IBROM system (2005) and the removal of the nearly decade long boil water advisory at Yellow Quill First Nation. The tangible success of the IBROM can be seen quantitatively, but also in real terms, as it removed a nearly decade long boil advisory that could not be lifted with conventional treatment methods and, therefore, greatly improved the lives of those living at Yellow Quill.