Research into the treatment of wool scouring effluents (1992)

Funded by: Water Research Commission

Partner organisations: Partners in Development, eThekwini Water and Sanitation

Project description
Even though the contaminants of the wool fleece are of no great concern to anyone while they are being carried about by the sheep itself, the liquid wastes emanating from the commercial scouring of such wool have long been regarded as highly polluting and difficult to treat. The components themselves are highly variable by virtue of their origins, and an effluent is thus produced having different ratios of its constituents from hour to hour.

While almost all conceivable methods of treating waste waters have been applied to scouring wastes at one time or another, with varying degrees of success, most are highly capital intensive, or are associated with high running costs, or are not feasible in certain locations or countries for one reason or another. Research into the treatment of such effluents is, therefore, on-going in various parts of the world.

The relatively new approach, pioneered by the University of Natal, and involving the application of dynamic ultrafiltration, appeared to hold promise as a new alternative technology for the treatment of wool scouring effluent which could be of value to the local industry, and even have application in a wider field. It was necessary, however, to evaluate this technology in an industrial environment. In this context the firm of Gubb & Inggs Limited was ideally placed. Not only did it have one of the largest mills for the processing of raw fibre in the Southern Hemisphere, and an involvement in scouring a very wide selection of fibres, but it was prepared to cooperate and collaborate with the University of Natal in trying out this new technology. Furthermore, the Water Research Commission was prepared to sponsor the project financially. Accordingly, a Contract was entered into in 1985 involving the Water Research Commission, the University of Natal (Pollution Research Group), Binnie & Partners (Consultants) (later Steffen Robertson & Kirsten) and Gubb & Inggs to pursue this new approach.

The detailed objectives of the project were as follows:
  • to determine the technical feasibility of dynamic ultrafiltration in the treatment of scouring effluent for water re-use at high water recoveries.
  • to evaluate the reuse of the reclaimed water in the production environment.
  • to evaluate the processing performance and the cost effectiveness of the system.
  • to evaluate the mechanical performance of the system
  • to develop estimates of the nett savings in water recycle, energy conservation, waste treatment and possible chemical recovery.
  • to develop a detailed design for the full-scale treatment of wool scouring effluents.
  • to progressively review the achievements of these objectives, and to ensure their successful completion.