One of the most fascinating aspects of my job is my constant interaction with the many different technologies available to clean water. Some of the applications I have been involved with cause some to think I am a science fiction writer and not a man of science. For sure some crazy things I have done include:
- Filtering pig poop, recovering the undigested food (pigs only digest a small portion of what they eat), and then providing that food back to the animal.
- Filtering toilet water on cruise ships and giving back to the passengers as bottled water
- Using walnut shells, alfalfa and recycled tires to clean up environmental hazards
One of the more wacky, but extremely effective technologies for recycling waste water is something called a Membrane Bioreactor. Essentially it is a tank separated into 2 halves by what is called a semi-permeable membrane. The membrane allows water to pass through, but not waste particles. On the dirty side of the system bacteria and activating enzymes are mixed in with the waste-water. The bacteria digest the waste thereby producing water, methane gas and other organic by-products. To make sure the water passes through the membrane and then doesn’t re-enter the dirty side, pressure is applied to the dirty side via a pump. The water produced is not suitable to drink, but it is suitable for further treatment to whatever end point quality the economics will allow.
BACTERIA – A FRIEND OF RECYCLING!