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May 20, General. John Todd developed a process in the s that mimicked natural ways to purify wastewater.

Today, his Eco Machines and Restorers are used for a wide range of municipal and industrial applications. Bob Feinbaum. JOHN Todd founded Ocean Arks International in the s, where he Natural wastewater treatment systems to experiment with processes that mimic natural ways to purify wastewater. He built a greenhouse and ran sewage through a series of tanks, with plants suspended in the flowing waters, and constructed marshes made of sand and gravel.

No chemicals were added, but plenty of aquatic creatures from snails to small fish were brought in at different stages to clean the waters. Furthermore, Todd maintained that flowers and fish could be grown, not only for aesthetic purposes but to offset the costs of running wastewater treatment facilities. His ideas attracted attention at the U. However, private companies followed along to market AEES systems for municipal and industrial applications. John Todd continued to de natural systems through Ocean Arks and the for-profit firm he set up with his son Jonathan, John Todd De. Des for wastewater treatment depend not only on the amount and strength of the wastewater, but on climatic conditions at the site and the types of plants and organisms adapted to thrive on the contaminants in the flowing stream.

Natural wastewater treatment systems

It came on line in Januaryand ramped up to full scale in June of that year. A screen over the glass closes at night to retain heat. Wastewater entering the system flows into a 16, gallon blending tank. From there it is pumped to a splitter box where water is directed into one of six treatment trains.

Each train contains four tanks, 6 feet high and 6 feet in diameter capable of holding 1, gallons.

Natural wastewater treatment systems

Tanks are open at the top with floating racks constructed of PVC, holding an array of plants usually 8 or 9 different species. Depending on the nutrients available, one plant tends to dominate in each tank. After traveling through those four tanks, which takes about half a day, the wastewater hits a clarifier — an 11 foot tank that holds about 6, gallons. There bacteria and other debris settle out within three hours.

Clean water runs by gravity to a sand filter and then into a constructed wetland, planted with tropical plants such as cana lilies and banana trees. Posner describes harvesting bananas, grown with the treated wastewater, in the middle of a Massachusetts winter. After the wetland, water runs into a UV disinfection unit and is discharged to a leachfield a quarter of a mile away. To date, the AEES has met them all. It replaced a failing septic system when the state expanded its Vietnam Memorial at the site.

The AEES was deed to serve 2, visitors a day in the summer tourist season. Water from the restrooms flows into two underground tanks which function as an anaerobic reactor and a biosolids holding tank.

From there it is pumped to a foot tall anoxic reactor, buried about a third of the way in the greenhouse cement floor. Air is supplied by a diffuser. Beneficial organisms convert nitrate to nitrogen and remove BOD from the wastewater.

Water is then pumped into a covered aerobic reactor where most of the remaining BOD is removed. Next, water flows to three hydroponic reactors, each 7 feet tall buried about a third of the way in the greenhouse floor. These open tanks hold vegetation supported on racks with plant roots extending into the wastewater. After that the water goes to a clarifier where solids settle out by gravity.

The now clean water flows through a sand filter and is subject to chlorine disinfection and then dechlorination before being reused for toilet flushing or allowed to overflow into a reduced size leachfield. Visitors like the system as well.

The colorful variety of plants growing in the tanks surprises visitors, especially on cold winter days. Alongside the Eco Machine, he developed and trademarked the Restorer technology for ponds, streams and canals. The roots of the plants form a living media. Aeration accelerates the ability of those ecosystems to clean polluted waters.

Natural wastewater treatment

Tyson Foods approached Todd when its plant in Berlin, Maryland was prohibited from discharging wastewater into a local fishing site near Chesapeake Bay. The result: contaminants were reduced by 95 percent, energy use decreased by 70 percent, and solids by 20 percent. Tyson Foods saved money and met state standards for discharge into open waters.

Restorer technology also has municipal applications. Fuzhou, China, a city of 6 million people, dumps all of its wastewater into canals that run throughout the city before emptying into a large river. Rather than piping the polluted water to a remote wastewater treatment facility, the city government sought an affordable and low-maintenance treatment system within the canal itself. Todd and his Chinese partners built a Restorer on the Fuzhou Canal that handlesgallons of sewage per day.

Natural wastewater treatment

The installation uses 12, plants from 20 native species. Bacteria adapted to digest sludge and grease are introduced at two separate points along a meter linear Restorer topped by a wood plank walkway. Plants are normally trimmed to allow for new growth. Eco Machines and Restorers may need less care than traditional wastewater systems but they still need to be maintained; water quality has to be monitored, vegetation pruned, filters and pumps changed, and fish, flowers or food grown in the system harvested.

There, an EcoMachine is situated atop a power station which keeps the greenhouse warm during winter months.

Todd and his students at the University of Vermont are currently working on a storm water park for the city of Burlington. The park will feature a constructed wetland to treat storm water flowing off the streets of the city before it is released into Lake Champlain. He looks forward to a third order of de that he calls Ecological and Economic Integration. An example is a acre Eco Park he and his colleagues are deing in the Intervale section of Burlington. Bob Feinbaum writes occasionally for BioCycle.

He founded HydroNova, an organization that provides information about small-scale wastewater treatment systems.

HydroNova is a program of the Earth Island Institute www. The Todds first applied their approach to deing and building engineered ecosystems for growing food. Shortly thereafter OAI started to develop the technologies that evolved into Eco Machines for treating wastewater and aquatic environment repair. Working with grants from the U. Environmental Protection Agency, Ocean Arks conducted a series of field trials of ecologically deed systems for wastewater treatment, and demonstrated that natural systems can be cost effectively applied in a variety of situations.

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