Veitur Utilities manages the infrastructure and operation of wastewater systems in Reykjavík, as well as Akranes and Borgarbyggð in West Iceland. Wastewater from Kópavogur, Mosfellsbær and Seltjarnarnes, in addition to parts of Garðabær, is treated in wastewater treatment plants at Ánanaust and Klettagarðar. The infrastructure serves approximately 60% of the population.
Residents and businesses in Veitur Utilities' accumulation area have access to utility systems and sewerage treatment plants, in accordance with reglulations. However, the company has been exempted from the principle of sewage treatment against monitoring negative effects to the receiver, please see the discussion below on sea quality. Veitur Utilities have decided to start investments and measures for wastewater treatment at least in accordance with the regulatory definition of single stage treatment.
Veitur Utilities’ long term objective is to ensure that the coastline is always clean, as the shore is defined as an outdoor recreational area. However, the discharge of unfiltered sewage via overflows is an inseparable part of the sewerage system, which has been developed over the last decades. This kind of discharge will continue to be the case as long as sewage and surface water is mixed in the receptor, which accounts for approximately 28% of the sewage collection system.
Effective measures taken to reduce the discharge of unfiltered sewage via overflows are, e.g. the development of procedures to systematically search for leaks, revision of procedures in the servicing of pumping stations, and extensive investments in the pipe system to divert surface water from the sewage system, such as at Hlemmur, Vesturgata, Tryggvagata, Suðurgata, Laugalækur and Bústaðavegur areas in Reykjavík. This project is a priority for the sewer utility. New procedures for the past two years have increased the operational security of sewage pumping stations, as well as making it now possible to carry out servicing the stations without adjourning their operations and releasing wastewater directly into the ocean. This includes experiments with using external pumping equipment during maintenance in large pumping stations. These measures support improved working environment and employees' safety. Currently, a long term plan is being developed to fully keep infiltration of extraneous water from the sewerage system. In 2022, projects were completed in the areas of Gufunesvogur and Kringlumýri and is well underway in the areas of Sogamýri in Reykjavik. Projects started on the Miðvogslækjar area in Akranes in West Iceland.
Environmental monitoring took place in the summer of 2022 at the main outlets of Veitur Utilitie's sewage treatment plants outside in the ocean near Reykjavík and in Hofsvík near Kjalarnes area. Mussels were grown at the outlets as pollution indicators for various analysis. In addition, water samples were taken from the oceanwater at the outlets. This can be used to assess whether the discharge of treated sewage is having a measurable effect on the ocean, and if so, to what extent. Results of 2022 do not show any evidence of harmful effects of the emission on the measured indicators, please see appendix.
Veitur Utilities did not take any microbial samples at the shore or in dilution sones near Reykjavík, like in previous years, as the work permits requirements only stipulate such sampling every four years. The Reykjavík Health Authority, on the other hand, has monthly monitored the microbiological quality of the coastal waters of Reykjavík and Kjalarness, from April to October. Along the coastline, 95% of the samples were found to be below the threshold for enterococci, which means very little contamination. 99% of the samples were below the threshold for faecal coliforms. In 2022, Veitur Utilities undertook additional sampling, from May to December, at the shores of Akranes and Borgarnes in West Iceland. In Akranes, 85% of the samples were found to be below the threshold for enterococci and 96% of the samples below the threshold for faecal coliforms. In Borgarnes, 96% of the samples were found to be below the threshold for enterococci and 97% of the samples below the threshold for faecal coliforms, please see appendix.
The concentration of microbes in the vicinity of outlets from Veitur Utilities’ biological sewerage treatment plants in West Iceland has exceeded the limits prescribed in the operating licence over the past few years. In 2022, improvement projects have been for this purpose.
All annual overview reports of sampling and measurements are accessible on Veitur Utilities’ website.
Blue-green surface water solutions
Veitur Utilities continue working on the implementation of blue-green surface water solutions, in collaboration with municipalities, to minimise the flow of rainwater from streets, roads, and other areas into the sewerage system, and reduce the probability, and likelihood, of discharge through the system into the sea. Residents and businesses have expressed their interest in curbing the flow from their premises with blue-green surface water solutions.
Responsible consumer behaviour and improved utilization of sewage waste
Veitur Utilities has reiterated that toilets should not be used like dustbins, as disposable disinfectant- and wet wipes, along with other garbage in the sewerage systems will inevitably result in too much strain on the equipment at treatment plants, and the environment. The sewerage utility is working on innovative projects to prepare for the reuse of sewage waste such as sand, sludge, fat and garbage waste, as landfilling is a waste of valuable resources, please see discussion in chapter U7.