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BIOROCK Uses Rocks to Treat Sewage

Rocks are the treatment medium for the BIOROCK mini sewage treatment system.Good-bye honey truck, hello rocks.   A mini sewage treatment plant called BIOROCK beats conventional septic systems on every level.  Using rocks as a medium, BIOROCK needs little or no electricity, requires less maintenance, and produces a super-clean effluent.  It’s scalable down to use for individual homes.  Farms, campgrounds, trailer parks, corporate parks, subdivisions and vacation spots are other likely uses.  BIOROCK was developed in the Netherlands and has been kicking around Europe for a number of years. Recently it made the jump to Ireland and Canada, so it could be only a matter of time before it pops up in the U.S.

More Efficient Sewage Treatment on a Small Scale

BIOROCK consists of a modular block, installed underground like a septic tank.  In the first treatment chamber, solids are trapped and digested anaerobically.  The company claims that this chamber requires emptying only every 3-4 years.  The second chamber treats the effluent through an aerobic process.  It contains layers of fibrous rock in netting, which are exposed to air through a natural updraft, or chimney effect.  Aerobic bacteria grow inside the rock matrix, aided by the updraft, and digest the suspended solids.  BIOROCK U.K. reports that the effluent beats European standards for small sewage treatment plants, EN 12566-3 2005 and EN 12566-7 2006.

Sustainable Sewage Treatment

BIROCK’s ease of maintenance, simple installation, and use of recyclable materials helps contribute to a low carbon footprint.  The BIOROCK process itself requires no electricity, and it is designed to discharge effluent by gravity into a waterway.

Sewage Treatment Off the Grid

Sewage treatment is one of the stickiest dilemmas that off-grid building designers face, especially in urban areas.  The BIROCK system offers one solution for sites where a gravity discharge is not possible and pumping is required.  Small scale solar panel and wind turbine components are available to help keep the system off-grid.  The system could also prove useful for off-grid second homes or eco-vacation spots, even when they are not used year-round.  It can be left dormant for long periods of time without damage, and it can be restarted within a day or so compared several weeks for a conventional septic system start-up.

Note:  BIOROCK is not to be confused with the Biorock method of restoring coral reefs.

Image: Ryan Harvey on

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Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.


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