Scientists to develop wastewater treatment solutions for Arctic

Media release from Fleming College:

Lindsay ON – While International Polar Year officially ends this month, Fleming College’s Centre for Alternative Wastewater Treatment (CAWT) will continue its research into the treatment of wastewater in cold climates. The results of this scientific research will not only be used to help improve northern communities, but will also be used by the United Nations in developing countries.

“For the last two years we have conducted extensive research into how improvements can be made to ensure communities in cold climates have proper and effective public sanitation,” said CAWT’s lead scientist, Brent Wootton. “It’s an incredible opportunity for a Canadian college to make such a substantial global contribution, bringing changes and improvements to communities around the world.”

Fleming was one of only two Canadian colleges to take part in the International Polar Year. CAWT was tasked with developing practical, low-cost solutions to assist Northern people to adapt to changing settlement patterns and the associated wastewater treatment health issues that arise. Fleming has since signed an official agreement with the United Nations Environment Programme to allow the UN to use Fleming research and development in developing countries with cold climates, such as the mountainous regions of Afghanistan and Nepal.

Environment Canada also just recently announced that, to meet new requirements under the Canada Wide Strategy for Municipal Wastewater Effluent, it will be working with Fleming’s CAWT to conduct research in the North, which will eventually lead to changes in regulations
affecting all Northern communities.

“Northern communities can’t afford to pay millions for the upkeep of expensive infrastructure for waste management, so Fleming College is helping to develop new affordable, green solutions,” said Wootton. “The situation in Canada’s North is similar to what is happening in developing countries, and so the UN will be using our research to help those communities as well.”

Over the last two years, Fleming’s team of scientists have concentrated its research on six communities in Nunavut.  While they initially intended to create a wetland for cold climates, they determined that wetlands had already formed naturally in some of the Northern communities where waste had been dumped.

Scientific research into examining nature’s process of breaking down waste has occurred for the last 50 to 60 years, but never in the Arctic or cold climates. Therefore, CAWT conducted 10,000 tests over 13 weeks in 2008 to determine whether nature’s process in breaking down wastewater is effective. Results prove that it is indeed effective and can be used as a cost-effective, green solution for wastewater treatment in cold climates.

Fleming scientists also worked with international experts to create SubWet 2.0, software to assist experts and water managers in the design and evaluation of constructed wetlands to improve water quality and treat domestic wastewater. SubWet 2.0 is a breakthrough in technology offering a new, affordable tool to assist water experts in cold climates.

A smaller wetland has been constructed by CAWT to help researchers further understand how wetlands can potentially be built to help northern communities and developing countries effectively deal with wastewater.

Grants to Fleming for its Northern research have been extended until 2011. During this time, researchers will focus on further understanding wetland processes that breakdown contaminants in wastewater.

For more information on Fleming College and CAWT, please visit
For more information on International Polar Year, please visit

About Fleming College
Located in Central Ontario, Fleming College has campus locations in Peterborough, Lindsay, Cobourg and Haliburton. Named for famous Canadian inventor and engineer Sir Sandford Fleming, the college features more than 90 full-time programs in Business, Computing and
Hospitality, Continuing Education and Skilled Trades, Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences, Fine Arts, Health and Wellness, Interdisciplinary Studies, and Law, Justice and Community Services. Fleming College has 5,000 full-time and 10,000 part-time students, and
more than 54,000 alumni.


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