THE INITIATIVE — Adequate sanitation is fundamentally crucial to human health, yet the infrastructure required for industry-standard solutions proves cost prohibitive for much of the world’s population. Even in developed countries, environmental and sustainability concerns are raising the bar for how waste is disposed. For the past decade, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been facilitating relationships between public and private organizations in Senegal to create a political appetite to sustain the levels of sanitation that are required to dramatically reduce the number pathogen-induced illnesses. This forethought and preparation made Dakar the top pick for the first installation of a Janicki Omni Processor.
OUR CHALLENGES — Our first challenge was taking the concept of the Omni Processor and making into a tangible, working technology. The primary goal of the Omni Processor is to render fecal sludge pathogen-free in order to stop the spread of disease in an economically sustainable way. Realizing this goal required significant research and development efforts from a hard-working and diversely skilled team. That work manifested itself as the first pilot unit of the Janicki Omni Processor. Getting it working on our own site in Washington state is one accomplishment, but we knew that the real learning would take place once operation began in Dakar. The team understood that new problems, both technical and otherwise, would arise in the context of Senegal. Shipment of the pilot unit to Dakar did not mean that the problem was solved. With strong local partners on the ground in Dakar, we were prepared for success but also aware that there would be challenges and learning curves along the way.
LESSONS LEARNED — After commissioning at the Niayes site in Dakar in May of 2015, operation of the plant began. Thanks to both on-the-ground presence during early operations and comprehensive remote monitoring, our team is able to track plant performance and issues closely. For us, this has resulted in adjustments that have made the system more robust and well-suited to meet the demands of the application. As an example, the harsh UV and salty air of Dakar have highlighted the need for careful material selection and coating. In addition, we have implemented component upgrades to protect against climate extremes, drying bed retrofits to improve the fuel supply quality, as well as overcoming cultural, language, and time zone barriers to achieve effective team communication. These have been highly valuable lessons as we look to scale to the global market.
SUCCESS STORY — In its first year in Dakar, the OP has processed an estimated 700 tons of fecal sludge. It continues to run on a nearly daily basis, it’s run time now limited only when it processes the entirety of the site’s fecal sludge supply. The Senegalese operators and maintenance crew is trained and currently manages the day-to-day operations of the plant with our U.S. based team traveling to the site as necessary to support various upgrades, water testing, etc. This approach has worked well and there is a huge sense of accomplishment.
THE LONG TERM — The operation of this unit on site will likely continue well into the future. Over the next couple of years, we hope to transition the plant to be more community focused, gradually shifting away from the rigorous field testing of the technology that we’ve been concentrated on. The goal is to have the unit fully managed by Senegal’s National Department of Sanitation (ONAS), and eventually working within a network of other locally owned and operated Omni Processors that would service the entire city of Dakar.