Abigail Klein Leichman
December 12, 2010, Updated September 12, 2012

A simple device from Israel can render the delicate, complex problem of biological wastewater treatment perfectly manageable.

Mapal wastewater treatment

An Israeli installation of the Mapal wastewater treatment system.

Good technological solutions don’t have to be complicated. That’s the thinking that drives Mapal Green Energy, an Israeli company with a simple device that offers a better and cheaper biological wastewater treatment solution.

Getting air to the bacteria in wastewater is critical to the treatment process, since these microbes need to breathe in order to properly biodegrade the contaminants, explains Zeev Fisher, vice president for international business development. Add too little oxygen and the bacteria die, creating ripe conditions for foul smells. Add too much, and the result will be out-of-control bacteria and algae.

“This is a delicate process that has to be maintained properly and monitored constantly,” Fisher tells ISRAEL21c. The air has to be added in just the right quantity, distributed evenly, and mixed well.

“Till 15 years ago, the most common way to do this was with a mechanical surface aerator that sprays the water all over,” Fisher recounts. “Then, a fine bubble aeration system was developed, similar to what you see in fish tanks.”

As the bubbles travel through the water, oxygen is transferred across their surface and into the water. One problem, though: This more-efficient and cost-effective system could only be installed in treatment facilities with a concrete floor. That severely limited the market.

Amazingly simple solution

About three years ago, Fisher learned that a retired water company engineer had invented floating diffusers for fine bubble aeration systems. Realizing this would make it possible for the system to operate in any sort of reactor, he partnered with the inventor Hanoch Magen to co-found Mapal in 2008 with the financial assistance of investor David Azouri, now CEO.

“I have been in the wastewater treatment industry for almost 25 years, and I was amazed that nobody had thought of this simple idea before,” Fisher says.

Mapal’s internationally patented CNM units are now installed in more than 20 wastewater treatment sites in Israel and in several other countries. The CNMs can be utilized in two types of municipal and industrial wastewater treatment facilities: Excavated biological reactor ponds and lagoons where fine bubble aeration was not possible before; and larger biological reactors ready for upgrading from the energy-intensive mechanical surface aerators.

Zeev Fisher

“I was amazed that nobody had thought of this simple idea before,” Zeev Fisher, VP for international business development at Mapal.

A major bonus is that the CNMs can be installed in either type of facility without any need to drain the reactor or stop its operation. The “live and wet” installation process does not disturb the bacteria at work.

“Whenever you hear about rivers or seas that get polluted due to untreated sewage seeping in from maintenance or installation activities in wastewater treatment plants, that’s because they don’t have Mapal technology,” states Fisher. “Every time they have to make a repair or want to upgrade to a fine bubble aeration system, they have to drain the whole reactor. This is a global problem.”

Clients in Angola, South Africa, Bulgaria

The Mapal system delivers energy savings of up to 70 percent compared to surface aerators. With no moving parts in the water, no maintenance is required; and pipes facilitate high-efficiency oxygen transfer to the bottom of the reactor. Because of its straightforward design and operation, CNMs are ideal for rural areas lacking sophisticated technical capabilities.

Based in Nesher, near Haifa, Mapal provides full process design and support, from feasibility studies and installation through training and financing. Each client receives a tailor-made solution, says Fisher.

In Angola, an Israeli construction company building housing projects commissioned Mapal to create a complete wastewater treatment design for the first stage of the development. “We supervised construction, shipped equipment, and sent a team to install it,” Fisher says. “It’s been up for six months now. We have a few more projects in the pipeline with them.”

He recently returned from South Africa, where Mapal will work with water companies serving the mining industry. In Bulgaria, he met with the minister of environment about Mapal’s possible role in implementing a new 1.5 billion euro wastewater treatment plant over the next five years.

At the September trade fair for environmental technology in Munich, the company’s presentation solicited “a wonderful reaction” and resulted in many business leads, Fisher reports. Mapal was one of a handful of Israeli companies exhibiting at the fair, which is one of the world’s largest in the field.

As a result of efforts over the past year to increase its international marketing capabilities, Mapal just finished its second round of investments with an infusion of 1.5 million pounds from a British source. Over the next six months, Fisher reports, Mapal expects to sign two or three major contracts in the global market.

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