Access to an adequate supply of clean, fresh water is critical to REA’s ability to operate and to the livelihoods of the surrounding communities, the majority of which are traditionally river dwelling. It is therefore imperative that this precious resource is used efficiently and equitably.
Fortunately, REA’s plantations receive plentiful rainfall, so irrigation is only necessary for the oil palm nurseries. Treated river water is used to process oil palm fruit in the mill and for domestic purposes. The group aims to reduce as far as possible the volume of water used per tonne of FFB processed in each palm oil mill and has installed water flow meters to monitor this.
The greatest risk of water pollution associated with REA’s operations is from palm oil mill effluent (POME) and run-off or leachates from fertilisers. The high organic matter content of untreated POME means that it has a high biological oxygen demand (BOD) and will starve aquatic flora or fauna of oxygen if it enters a water course. However, by utilising as much of this organic matter as possible to produce fertiliser and electricity the group obtains valuable resources whilst also mitigating the risk of water pollution.
The group’s first strategy for extracting value from POME is to capture the methane produced when the organic matter content is digested anaerobically and convert the biogas collected to electricity. Unlike the traditional open pond system for digesting POME, the methane capture facilities are enclosed systems and thus reduce the risk of untreated POME polluting the environment.
The group’s second strategy for extracting value from POME is to mix it with empty oil palm fruit bunches and convert it into organic compost on site. The availability of this compost has enabled inputs of inorganic fertilisers to be reduced significantly. This in turn has reduced the associated risk of water pollution from leaching or run-off.
POME that exceeds the requirement for compost production, as well as the POME that has been processed by the methane capture plants, is treated in the traditional anaerobic open ponds. This helps to reduce the BOD of the POME before it is pumped to flat beds in between the rows of oil palm so that the remaining nutrient content can be utilised as fertiliser. The BOD of the POME in the final open pond is tested on a monthly basis to ensure that it is below the legal limit for land application in Indonesia, being 5,000mg/litre.
- The amount of water used includes domestic water and the process at the plant.
- Of the three factories (POM, COM, SOM) the average water use (per tonne FFB process) is still below the maximum standard set.
- However, fluctuations in the number of water use were the most significant in SOM (2.39 M3 / tonnes FFB processed). The cause of this is the still occurrence of damage to the automatic pumping equipment at the PAP so that the control of water use becomes less effective.
- Water use savings program, focused on activities:
- Utilization of condesed water for processing at the plant.
- Ensure preventive maintenance of measuring instruments (flow meters) and calibrated periodically.
- Preventive maintenance of automatic pumps in each factory.
- Educate all employees to save water as a renewable energy source.
The target time for the program to save water use is evaluated annually. However, for the SOM the target time is until July 2019 to ensure the automatic pumping device can function.
Water quality of rivers is measured and monitored in terms of Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) and Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD).
BOD and COD content in river water
- Quality standard for surface water (COD parameter) refers to the regulation of East Kalimantan Regional Regulation No. 2 of 2011
- Based on the results of monitoring and evaluation in 2017, the COD for COM and SOM quality trends are still below the quality standard or in accordance with regulations.
- But for POM, the results are above the quality standard (25.36) with a standard of 25.00 this happens in the downstream area of the River Sentekan. From the analysis that in the lower reaches of the Sentekan River there are several mining company operations and community activities so that it can be concluded that indications of high BOD values are caused not by POM operations.
- Corrective and preventive measures to improve the water quality:
- Commitment to apply BMPs for plantation and factory management by consistently complying with regulations.
- Conduct regular patrols involving the community.
- Socialization and education to internal and external stakeholders.
- Establish communication with mining companies operating in the lower reaches of the River Sentekan in terms of environmental management cooperation programs
- Time bound decrease in BOD value for POM in July 2019.
- And in general all factories will be monitored and evaluated every 6 months.
BOD and COD content in POME
- Regulatory standards in Indonesia for mill effluent/POME quality standards refer to Minister of Environment Decree No. 29 year 2003.
- Regulated parameters include BOD, pH while for COD is not regulated.
- The quality of POME for POM, COM and SOM complies with regulatory standards.
- Time bound for achieving the quality standards of mill effluent (POME) will be evaluated every month.