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Microbes Developed by a Finnish Company Tackle Blocked Drains (Rakennuslehti 16.8.2017)

Rakennuslehti 16.8.2017 Johanna Aatsalo

There is a microbe-related pilot project going on in a housing co-operative built in 2010 called As. Oy Kokkovuori in Espoo, Finland. Five different strains of bacteria, grown by the Finnish company, digest fat, protein, starch, cellulose and hydrogen sulphide.

The aim of the pilot project is to fight blocked drains and foul odours of the drain as well as to prevent hydrogen sulphide from forming, since it erodes the pipeline.

The somewhat new apartment building owned by the pension insurance company Varma has for a long time suffered from foul drain odours that decrease residential amenity. When the drainpipes were photographed at the start of the project, the flues, which are made of composite drains, were in surprisingly poor condition. However, most of the organic waste was gathered into the areas that come after the curves of the fuselage drain.

The material that’s gathered on the surface of the drains comes from dishwashers, sinks, basins, floor drains of the shower and sauna, and from washing machines.

Besides the target building built in 2010, the housing co-operative has four older residential buildings that also take part in the pilot project.

A pilot of three months

The drains of Kokkovuori apartment building will be fed a water-based microbe solution by the Finnish company ProtectPipe. A total of six automatic pumps were installed in the buildings, which pump the microbe solution to the airing drains of the flues.

“The live bacteria in the solution move to the areas with build-up in the drainpipe and devour the waste, turning it into water and carbon dioxide. At the same time, the microbe solution prevents harmful gases, like hydrogen sulphide, from forming and removes foul odours, insects and blockages from the drainpipe. Even fruit flies won’t bother you after this, since the drainpipe offers them a good breeding ground”, says Klas Alfthan, co-founder of ProtectPipe.

Microbes start working right after they get into the drainpipes. Before this, they have used sugars of the microbe solution as their nourishment. The automatic pump has been installed to pump the solution when the drains are used the least.

“The microbes of the solution reproduce in the drains and in time move on all the way to water treatment plants. With our technology, we bring the biological water purification done in water treatment plants to real estates.”

The bacteria stay alive between the temperatures of +5 and +60, and they are bred at ProtectPipe’s own production plant.

The gold vein of blocked drains

ProtectPipe, which was established last years, produces environmentally-friendly microbe solution that was developed together with microbiologists at the University of Helsinki. The bacteria of the solution tolerate both demanding conditions and changing temperatures and pH values.

The company has already sold its product to Dubai, among other places. Foul odours in the ponds of the golf courses established in the desert are being tackled with the help of the Finnish microbes. Plant nutrients flowing down to the ponds from the courses will rapidly start smelling horrid on boiling hot days.

“We also aim at extending to the skyscrapers of the area, since their drains are hard to clean with for example pressure cleaning due to the height of the buildings. For us a building with hundred floors is not a problem, since organic waste is the same all over the world and the problem is universal”, Klas Alfthan, co-founder of the company, says.

For example, in the pilot project in Espoo, the price of the intensive cleansing of three months is around 2,000 euros per building. Thereafter, one can move on to the perpetuating microbe feeding, the price of which is, depending on the target, around 1-2 euros per square meter.

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