This thesis proposes a methodology for the conceptual design of wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) via a combination of a hierarchical decision process and multicriteria decision analysis. We begin with a brief introduction into the main fields of study involved in this work: the design of chemical processes in general; the design of wastewater treatment plants in particular and multicriteria decision analysis as applied to environmental management. We go on to outline the objectives of the study and then describe our methodology as well as the computer-based support tools used. In order to evaluate and contrast our design methodology, we present a study case in which a conceptual design is developed for a WWTP which has the same requirements as the actual WWTP currently in operation in the town of Granollers. First, we present the initial information and then define the design objectives, as well as the set of criteria that will be used in order to evaluate the degree to which the objectives have been met.
The design objectives are of different types: environmental, technical, social and economical; the set of criteria, of which there are 33 in all, are also classified into these four categories. Each of the criteria has a specific weighting in terms of their importance in taking decisions. Next, we go through the whole decision process leading to the completion of the design of the WWTP. The decision process has been divided into two parts which are differentiated but at the same time, interconnected: the water line and the sludge line. The decision process involves a total of eighteen questions (twelve for the water line and six for the sludge line) with a maximum of four alternatives per question. In order to answer each question, the proposed alternatives are evaluated in relation to a set of criteria chosen from the initial list. Applying the multicriteria decision process known as SMART (simple multiattribute rating technique), the results for the alternatives with respect to each criteria are combined, bearing in mind the importance of each criteria, in order to get a single value for each alternative. To get the results for those alternatives relating to the operation of the process and those to do with economical factors, we used the GPS-X and CapdetWorks programmes, respectively. The criteria not quantified by means of these programmes were resolved by qualitative means and through the use of design manuals, in addition to taking expert opinion into account. The alternative that obtains the highest weighting is the one which is recommended by the decision process. The study case is completed once a complete design of the WWTP is obtained. In order to integrate all the elements we have mentioned, and to assist the development of the decision process, we employed the programme known as DRAMA (Design Rationale Management). We then go on to give a comparative analysis between the real WWTP in Granollers and the WWTP resulting from our study case. We describe and compare the flow diagrams in both cases, providing justification for each of the decisions taken in the study case and then discuss the results, reflecting on the advantages to be gained from using the methodology of conceptual design we propose. Finally, we present the conclusions of our thesis.
The main results of this thesis were published, in 2002, in the international magazine, Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Research (N. Vidal, R. Bañares-Alcántara, I. Rodríguez-Roda and M. Poch: "Design of wastewater treatment plants using a conceptual design methodology", Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Research, 41 (20), pages 4993-5005). Continuing work in this line of research at the Laboratori d'Enginyeria Química i Ambiental at the University of Girona has led to the research work by Xavi Flores, Procés de decisió jeràrquic combinat amb anàlisi multicriteri per al suport al disseny conceptual de sistemes de fangs actius d'una estació depuradora d'aigües residuals (A hierarchical decision process combined with multicriteria analysis to assist conceptual design of active sludge systems in a wastewater treatment plant) and the presentation of the preliminary results at the 9th IWA Conference on Design, Operation and Economics of Large Wastewater Treatment, which took place in September, 2003, in Prague ("Combining hierarchical decision process with multi-criteria analysis for conceptual design of WWTP", X. Flores, Núria Vidal, August Bonmatí, J. B. Copp and Ignasi Rodríguez-Roda).