The Burdekin Shire Council is calling for $6.8 million in government funding to support a new Macro-Algal Bioremediation Facility, a project which has major implications for sustainable technology developments and infrastructure projects across Australia.
The trial use of algae to treat the region’s wastewater at the Ayr, Brandon Water Treatment Plant began three months ago, utilising research from James Cook University and implemented by sustainable aquaculture and technology company Pacific Bio.
Sam Bastounas, the CEO of Pacific Bio, says that macroalgae technology is a rapidly growing area in sustainability science, with huge implications for renewable energy, water treatment and agriculture, and that the Burdekin is leading the way in its use.
“We were approached by Lyn McLaughlin to find a wastewater treatment option for the Burdekin,” said Mr Bastounas.
“The final stage of water treatment can be a very expensive process. What we’ve been able to do with James Cook University is to develop a similar solution using macroalgae, which helps us clean all that water and then collect all the algae and return it to the sugarcane farmers.”
He explains that the macroalgae used at the treatment plant absorbs phosphorus and nitrogen from the Burdekin’s wastewater while absorbing carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants, feeding the algae and dramatically reducing emissions.
“We’ve seen phenomenal results. The algae is also a biostimulant.
“What that does is it lets us take the algae and then reuse that effectively as organic materials for the soils that help return growth in sugar cane, so it very much supports the circular economy.”
He says that if the new project receives funding, Burdekin’s water treatment facility will set a world-class standard in macro-algae technology.
“It’ll put the Burdekin on the map. It’ll be a world-class water treatment facility that uses nature as a factory,” said Mr Batounas.
MP Bob Katter backed the project, visiting the Water Treatment Plant this week to see the pioneering technology first-hand.
He said that the scientific use of algae in the Burdekin has vast potential for the Hells Gate Dam project he is supporting, a $5.35 billion irrigated agricultural and power project designed to power the region from the upper Burdekin River.
“Instead of CO2 being a problem, CO2 is one of the most attractive commodities we can get our hands on because if you get the CO2, we can feed it to the algae and then turn the algae into stock feed,” said Katter.
“All of North Queensland’s electricity can come from Hells Gate. We can produce electricity with zero emissions, and the CO2 is producing solid gold for the cattle and sugar industry in North Queensland.”
Burdekin Shire Council Mayor Lyn McLaughlin says she’s proud that the region is leading the way with the new water treatment facility, calling for $6.8 million from the state government to expand the project.
“We really wanted to be at the front of this new technology,” said Cr McLaughlin.
“It might be here in the Burdekin, but it’s a world first and will be applicable all over the world and to small communities and across Australia, where they can return that nutrient back to the soil.
“If we can do this on a larger scale, the benefit to primary producers will be amazing.”