C.O.VI.D.: Catalytic Ozonation for VIrus Disinfection – Why Not?

Nikoletta Tsiarta (ESR14)

Hello, my #stayhome readers. It’s been four months since our first digital contact, and I am happy to share my thoughts with you again. Taking into account the current situation, who said COVID could only refer to a disease?

COVID, a word that has unexpectedly changed our daily routine. No one was prepared for what this virus outbreak would bring. No one took it seriously in the first place. No one expected that this virus would spread that fast, and no one believed that one-day people would get fined just for walking outdoors without a specific reason. However, everyone realized that only collectively, we can fight this invisible battle and bring our life into equilibrium again (or maybe in a new, better equilibrium).

I am sure you have all heard about COVID-19. It is the hot topic of all websites, newspapers, magazines, social media. But all this information was given to us only when the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared it as a Global Health Emergency. It is always like this. We only deal with something when it becomes a problem in our daily life.

On the other hand, who heard about C.O.VI.D.? Well, let me introduce you to my world of science. As mentioned in my previous blog article, our project main objective is to propose innovative technologies for wastewater treatment. To produce clean water from the water that has been already used in our houses, businesses or industries.

Catalytic Ozonation for VIrus Disinfection (C.O.VI.D) can be the cure for another possible future battle, the one of water scarcity. Many countries worldwide, including most EU countries located in the Mediterranean region, face extremely high-water stress problems [1], meaning that in the future people will not have access to freshwater. WHO has several times arisen concerns since contaminated water and poor sanitation are linked to the transmission of diseases.

Let me present you some facts and predictions I gathered to make a comparison of COVID-19 outbreak to water scarcity [2,3]. The maps on the top also show the countries affected by each occasion. Do you see the connection?

In both occasions, the numbers are getting higher and higher by the time. Regarding water scarcity, the numbers are incredibly higher than those of COVID-19. But since it is not currently affecting our lifestyle we ignore it. It is of high importance to consider all these numbers and act on time. Many experts on wastewater treatment, are now introducing the concept of Water Reuse, urging governments and local authorities that this will be the only sustainable solution for dealing with the lack of water in the upcoming years.

Water Reuses means the use of treated wastewater, or “reclaimed” water, for beneficial purposes such as drinking, irrigation, or industrial applications [4] with the aim to keep the ecosystem and public health unaffected. And, here is where Catalytic Ozonation for VIrus Disinfection (C.O.VI.D.) steps in.

My research focuses on the design of a technology that combines catalytic ozonation and membrane filtration to treat wastewater and eventually pose it back to the environment by minimizing any adverse effects. Following the concept of Water Reuse many research projects are now trying to find the best technology and provide guidelines for treating effectively all these contaminants found in wastewater.

Ozone is well known for its protecting layer around the earth´s atmosphere. However, it can be used as a disinfectant in the final line of a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP); the method is called ozonation. It gets mixed with secondary effluent water and it simply reacts with every single particle present in it, including bacteria and viruses [5]. Interestingly, ozone is 50 times more effective at disinfection compared to the most popular disinfectant – chlorine.

And why Catalytic?

Because catalytic ozonation utilizes catalysts. Catalysts are substances that increase the rate of a chemical reaction, let´s say like COVID-19 uses people to increase its transmission rates. So by using a catalyst, we aim to increase the efficiency of the technology and provide water of better quality.

Now going back to COVID-19, why do you think governments and local authorities have taken all these drastic measures?

Because we were unprepared. When humans ingest medicines/pharmaceuticals, up to 90% of active ingredients are excreted back into the environment and COVID-19 has increased the number of pharmaceuticals in WWTPs effluents.

If another disease outbreak arises while countries are suffering from extreme water scarcity events, then only a well-planned water reuse system will be able to prevent economic and health system collapse scenarios. Countries should develop comprehensive water treatment and reuse standards, providing directions, encouraging and financing wastewater reuse programs like they are all trying to do now against the virus outbreak.

Let´s be prepared this time!

You may think water issues are somebody else’s problem. But in a few years, it will be yours too.

Protecting yourself means protecting others and respecting the environment means respecting yourself.

And as Erasmus said, “Prevention is always better than cure”!

Hasta luego amigos/as and enjoy the small things you have missed due to the non-stop “running”!

#stayhome #bepositive #acttogether #beready #betterdaysarecoming



[1] https://www.eea.europa.eu/signals/signals-2018-content-list/articles/water-use-in-europe-2014

[2] https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/drinking-water

[3] https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

[4] https://www.nap.edu/read/13514/chapter/1

[5] Alternative Disinfectants and Oxidants Guidance Manual. (1999). U.S.EPA 815-R99-014 (Chapter 3, 3.3.5)