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Igloo Turns Sewage into Cold Cash

new igloo shaped device helps rural communities save money on sewage treatmentA company called Wastewater Compliance Systems is marketing a new sewage treatment device shaped like an igloo that could help save budget-challenged rural communities millions of dollars in treatment costs.  The relatively inexpensive device, which was developed at the University of Utah, helps to extend the lifespan and efficiency of the open sewage lagoons that are still used in many areas.

Slow Paced Sewage Treatment

Modern sewage treatment plants are extremely expensive, highly mechanized, energy-gobbling affairs with precisely controlled environments that maximize the efficiency and speed of bacteria to break down sewage. Because of the cost, many small communities still rely on a more primitive method: open lagoons or ponds that hold sewage for a relatively long period of time, while the bacteria go to work more or less at their own pace.

A Low Cost Sewage Treatment Solution

In communities where discharge regulations are tightening and populations are growing, these lagoons are nearing the end of their usefulness. The solution offered by Wastewater Compliance is to dramatically increase the surface area of a lagoon at a relatively modest cost, which provides more room to accommodate more bacteria. The trick is to submerge groups of igloo-shaped structures in the lagoon.

The Poo-Gloo Igloo Shaped Sewage Treater

Each device, nicknamed the Poo-Gloo (marketed as the Bio-Dome), contains three additional domes nesting within in it. When submerged in a lagoon, it takes up 28 square feet but creates 2,800 square feet of surface upon which bacteria can grow. A ring of tubes at the base sends air bubbles up through the middle of each Bio-Dome, which helps to create an optimal environment for bacteria while limiting algae growth. So far, pilot testing has shown treatment rates comparable to mechanized processes.

Whither the Poo-Gloo

The company is optimistic that uses for the Bio-Dome go beyond municipal sewage treatment. Industrial or agricultural discharges are a possibility, or the devices could also be used at golf courses and other recreation areas. In that case, the energy efficient device also may have some potential in Re-Powering America’s Land, a program designed to reclaim brownfields and other classified sites for alternative energy and green jobs.

Image: Igloo by Nagyman on flickr.com.

 
 
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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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