High Ambitions from Kalmar


I have to admit that it is not an easy conversation talking about wastewater let alone the treatment of it. As private citizens, we flush the toilet and we don’t give much thought to where the water ends up. Two people who give a lot of thought to everything about the science, innovation and technology applications for wastewater to major industrial treatment of wastewater for a growing city are Fredrik Åkesson from GE Water and Regine Ullman, Technical Project Manager at the Kalmar Wastewater Treatment Plant.

For the past two years, Fredrik has been responsible for starting up business activities in the Nordic markets at GE Water.  More focus is now being placed in this strategic region. Stockholm Vatten has selected GE Water as their key solution provider and membrane filtration will be introduced in Sweden on a massive scale. He is excited about building up the resources and capabilities to meet the increasing demand for expertise. Regine is a civil engineer who is managing the technical aspects of the upgrade for the future Kalmar  Sound Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP).

“We are part of the programme because of the overall passion of the team, this has been an important factor. The overall aim to save the Baltic Sea by connecting partners from different disciplines from management consultants, legal experts, tech experts and researchers and offering a toolkit for municipalities makes the program a unique concept. GE is action-oriented. We don’t want to just talk about solutions, we want to actually do something. So the programme was a perfect match for us as we are passionate and care deeply about water and the Baltic Sea.”

A Growing Kalmar Requires Upgraded Technology

Kalmar is an attractive region and has grown in terms of population and urbanization of the municipality. In parallel with this growth, there have been stricter regulations for water quality discharge. How do you tackle this challenge of meeting the demands of a growing population as well as adhere to tougher regulations?

GE Water is partnering with Kalmar Water to support preparations of the technological upgrade of the Kalmar WWTP. “Kalmar is very ambitious, they want to build Sweden’s best wastewater treatment plant,” says Fredrik. “The politicians play a big role in highlighting the Kalmar water company as the best in Sweden and to think differently about water scarcity and water resources,” reinforces Regine.  

Kalmar Water is currently in the final stages of a pilot study. Kalmar Water has been testing the membrane filtration technology hands on and has simulated different scenarios for a full scale upgrade. The next step is to review and evaluate the results of the pilot study.  “Finding the right technology and the right type of membrane and application is the main challenge for any waste water treatment plant. When and where to apply the membranes are important factors to consider,” described Fredrik.

New but Not New: Membrane Filtration Technology

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Membrane filtration technology has been available for several decades and is widely used.  In the Nordic countries, interest is growing and application of this innovation is still quite new.  Stockholm has recently chosen membrane technology as the key enabler for their wastewater treatment.  “It has to be a technology that can be adapted and tailored to local needs,” says Fredrik.  Regine also described the granular activated carbon (GAC) filtration which has been mainly used to reduce dissolved substances in drinking water but is now being applied to wastewater. For Kalmar WWTP, the combination of the membrane technology and GAC at such a large scale is new for Sweden, according to Regine.


Changing the Mind set

“We are committed to supporting municipalities in their journey to become more energy efficient. Our technology and solutions can transform treatment plants from large energy consumers to zero energy consumers, making them energy neutral. We are changing the paradigm… going from wastewater treatment to resource recovery.  Reduce and reuse as much as possible” described Fredrik.  

“We see wastewater as a resource and we want to think differently about it,” says Regine. Her passion shines through as she comments about her job at Kalmar WWTP, “I don’t want to do anything else, this is my calling.”

Simple steps from Upstream

What can individuals, citizens, households do to affect water that ends up at the treatment plant? Kalmar is active in informing their community about being mindful and aware of what they flush down the toilet. We are part of the circular economy and we can play a role to minimize the impact on the quality of wastewater. It makes you think twice about what we flush down the toilet – keep it simple - just feces, urine and toilet paper.