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Quality certification for Thai wastewater treatment

COWI helps Thailand get its first ISO 9001-approved municipal wastewater treatment plant.

In partnership with DANIDA and Thailand’s Wastewater Management Authority (WMA), COWI has helped the Sakhon Nakhon district in Northern Thailand achieve ISO-9001:2000 certification for a wastewater treatment plant – the first and only of its kind.

The certification for the treatment plant was given in January 2006. The plant, which handles wastewater for approx. 50,000 inhabitants, is one of Thailand’s 86 treatment plants.

Wastewater on the agenda

The ISO certification process is very demanding and it has taken three years to achieve certification. The strict ISO guidelines ensure that the plant is properly operated and maintained. This will ensure that national wastewater standards are kept.
In Thailand, where most of the country’s treatment plants are ineffective or out of operation, such a detailed level of management is exceptional.

Major accomplishment

"Achieving this certification for a municipal treatment plant is a major accomplishment, particularly in a country where treatment of wastewater hasn’t the highest priority,” says Carsten Laugesen from COWI/WMA.

“In this region it is generally only the large multinationals that have achieved an ISO approval. But now that a municipality has received this, it hopefully will help to put wastewater management higher on the political agenda.”

A model municipality

The ISO certification of Sakhon Nakhon wastewater treatment plant will have positive repercussions elsewhere in Thailand, and it is hoped that this will help to convince and prove that natural treatment plants consisting of ponds and constructed wetlands are operationally secure and effective.

So effective in fact, that they can achieve ISO 9001:2000 certification; something that traditionally only have been attained by so-called high-tech treatment facilities. The ISO certification thereby, in a rather unorthodox way, places focus on what could be termed “appropriate technology” in Thailand.

By Mikkel Rye Christensen, mkc@cowi.com
Published: 07.04.2006

Sakhon Nakhon

Sakhon Nakhon is located in the north-eastern part of Thailand near the Laos border. It is home to the large Nong Han Lake covering an area of 32 km2. This is the largest natural lake in the country and the habitat of many bird and fish species. The lake is very valuable both as a tourist attraction and a way of life for local people.

Cleansing the wastewater from Sakhon Nakhon was the brainchild of the King of Thailand, who wanted to secure the future of the wildlife of Nong Han Lake.

Sakhon Nakhon was in many ways an obvious choice for an ISO-certification. The municipality already had a natural treatment plant based on ponds and constructed wetlands. The municipality is efficient and well managed. And COWI, WMA and DANIDA had already for some years been working together with Sakhon Nakhon municipality on improvements of the wastewater treatment and collection systems in the municipality.

LAST UPDATED: 16.09.2016