Just how effective is integrated biological reverse osmosis membrane (IBROM) filtration? In 2018, Sapphire Water decided to test the water quality at some of our SIBROM projects to find out exactly how they are doing, years after installation. The results are in – see what’s going on at George Gordon First Nation’s biological water treatment system thirteen year after commissioning their SIBROM water treatment plant.

George Gordon – The Past: Manganese Greensand Water Treatment

George Gordon First Nation, a First Nations community in Saskatchewan, is located approximately 100 km north of Regina. With just over 1,000 members living on-reserve, George Gordon has a modern medical clinic, an education centre, a computer centre, an arena, and a day care, as well as the Gordon Retail Centre and the Buffalo Ranch Project. Programs that are offered to band members include the Residential School Recovery and Wellness Centre, Brighter Futures, and Gordon Social Development.

The George Gordon First Nation struggled with groundwater that has a high mineral content and excessive amounts of iron and manganese. Prior to the installation of the SIBROM, the George Gordon had a Manganese Greensand Filter. In 2000, a Reverse Osmosis pilot test was run with the feed line installed prior to the manganese greensand filter to test the ability of the RO unit to purify the water.

George Gordon – Today: Biological Water Treatment

In 2005, George Gordon became one of the first communities to implement Sapphire Water’s SIBROM. Sapphire Water retrofitted the existing greensand system with a biological water treatment system (SIBROM) consisting of 4 biological filters, in series, followed by reverse osmosis membrane treatment.

Today, the system effectively treats a difficult well water source high in arsenic, iron, and manganese, and has saved the community $100,000/year in reduced membrane replacements.

Parameter Feed Water
Water Quality
Removal using
Iron (mg/L) 3.390 0.002 0.000 99.93% 99.99%
Manganese (mg/L) 1.147 1.350 0.012 4.71% 99.15%
Arsenic (mg/L) 50.667 2.200 0.000 95.66% 100.00%
Phosphorus (mg/L) 0.147 0.000 0.000 100.00% 100.00%
Ammonia (mg/L) 1.400 0.140 0.003 87.86% 99.76%

Pre-filters are installed ahead of RO membranes in both RO and SIBROM plants to filter out debris and biological contaminants. These pre-filters must be changed regularly, and some direct RO plants change them as often as once a week.

The pre-filters pictured to the left were pulled from the George Gordon SIBROM plant after filtering 159,000 m3 of biologically treated water. Because the biological filtration phase is so effective, there is no evidence of fouling on these filters. The pre-filters at George Gordon’s SIBROM plant last for up to 24 months before needing to be changed.