19 June 2012

Siemens seawater project at Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal

Siemens has replied to my questions about their water project at Tanah Merah, which we saw during a trip a few weeks ago.
The project had pipes lead out across the seawall, discharging onto the reefs and seagrasses in the area.
I wrote to Siemens after the trip, and yesterday, I got a reply from them. Here's their explanation of the project (in blue) with additional questions from me (in red). [Updated 20 Jun: Siemen's replied to these additional questions, scroll to the bottom.]

My email sent on 8 Jun and resent on 13 Jun, with responses from Siemens on 18 Jun at my points (a) to (g) in blue, and my additional questions in red, sent to them today, cc'd NEA and NParks.

Query about Siemens Dissolved Air Floatation installation at Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal and potential impact on reefs and seagrass meadows nearby

Today I surveyed the rich reefs that have settled naturally on the seawall at the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal and noticed a Siemens Dissolved Air Floatation installation that discharges directly onto these reefs. These reefs are astoundingly rich and the best reefs on mainland Singapore. Near this discharge point are also some patches of seagrasses (Cymodocea rotundata) which are rarely seen on mainland Singapore. A wide variety of marine life is also regularly sighted in this area.

Here's a google map with some of the key biodiversity areas at the discharge point.

More about my trip to this shore today on my blog

More about the reefs at Tanah Merah in these other posts

More about the seagrasses at Tanah Merah in this post

More about intertidal marine life found at Tanah Merah in these posts

I visited your website and was unable to find information about this installation.

Could you please share more about this installation? In particular these points:

(a) What are the objectives of the installation?
Siemen's response: This is a temporary 6-12 month study. We are evaluating a process to treat seawater to take out algae, organic matter, oil and grease, etc. The water discharged back is much cleaner than what is taken in.

(b) What substances are being processed in the installation?
Siemen's response: Seawater

(c) What substances are being discharged onto the reefs and shores by the installation?
Siemen's response: Treated seawater, which is much cleaner than what was taken in.

My additional question: While it may be 'clean' to you and me, how does removing  'algae, organic matter, oil and grease, etc' affect the quality of the water discharged onto the reef?  Where is the 'algae, organic matter, oil and grease, etc' disposed off?

(d) Was an Environmental Impact Assessment done before the installation started operation? If so, what are the key findings of this EIA?
Siemen's response: Approval was gained from MPA and NPARKS. The treated water is much cleaner than what was taken in, so no assessment was necessary.

My additional question: What is the composition of the 'cleaner water'? Freshwater, as you must know, has adverse impact on marine life. For example the mass deaths on Chek Jawa in 2007 is believed to have been caused by prolonged exposure to freshwater due to heavy rainfall. How do we know if prolonged exposure to the 'clean water' discharged by the project has an impact on the surrounding marine life without an assessment?

(e) Is regular environmental and biodiversity monitoring being conducted to monitor the possible impact of the installation's operation on the existing biodiversity found especially at the discharge point? If so, what are the key findings of this monitoring?
Siemen's response: We are only taking up a small amount of seawater (abt 40 m3 per hour). It is discharged back to the ocean itself. Since the water discharged is much cleaner than the water taken in, we don't expect any environmental impact.

My additional question: It may be that you expect no environmental impact, but wouldn't it be better to be sure there is no environmental impact? By doing some monitoring?

(f) How long will this installation be in operation?
Siemen's response: 6-12 months.

(g) Are there plans to operate this or similar installations in the long term? If so, how big and for how long? And what environmental impact management issues are addressed such plans?
Siemen's response: We are conducting research for now. In fact, we have a presentation at the upcoming Singapore International Water Week. If successful, this will be an pre-treatment application for desalination applications. As PUB plans to increase the desalination portion of potable water in Singapore from the current 10 percent to 20 percent in the future (to reduce the amount of water imported), this process will be a useful tool in the process box. Current data look promising.

My additional comment: The data will surely look even better if it was supported with assessment and monitoring that verifies your 'expectations' of no environmental impact.

Siemen's reply on 20 Jun to my additional questions:

Based on your further questions, the recurring question you seem to be asking is the discharge of the "fresh" water. Note that the DAF is not a desalting/desalination process (no Reverse Osmosis involved) - it is a pre-treatment for Desalination. The salinity of the water discharged back to the ocean remains the same as what was taken in. The only constituents taken out is some of the algae, organic matter and solids. Due to these facts, an environmental assessment is not necessary. Further, the discharge goes into the ocean itself where it mixers with a large volume of water.

Again, thank you for your enquiry. If you'll like to find out more about our DAF pilot study, please join us at our presentation during the upcoming Singapore International Water Week. We will be making a presentation about this project at the Water Convention - http://www.siww.com.sg/preliminary-water-convention-2012-programme".


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