Rural Water - Quarter 1, 2014 - (Page 12)

SUSTAINABILIT SUSTAINABILITY SUSTAINABILITY USTAINABIL Waves, Sunlight and Plants Transform Wastewater into Clean Water Alternative BY MARY LOU JAY RURAL COMMUNITIES ALONG America's coastlines may soon have a new source for reuse and even potable water. An experiment currently being conducted along the shores of Mobile Bay in Daphne, Alabama, could signal a dramatic breakthrough in the process of breaking wastewater down into clean water and crude oil that can be converted to fuel. For the past two years, Daphne Utilities and Algae Systems of Menlo Park, California, have been collaborating on a joint research project that harnesses sunlight and waves to perform the transformation. In the process, developed by Algae Systems, algae are pumped into a series of large 10 feet by 80 feet clear plastic bioreactor bags along with the utility's nutrient-rich, disinfected liquid waste. The bags are then floated in marshy, shallow water in an unused section of the bay. With sunlight, CO2 from the air and the natural action of the waves providing the mixing necessary for healthy algae growth, it takes only four days for the algae to devour all the nutrients in the wastewater. The mixture is then pumped out and separated, leaving water that is reuse quality and nutrient-rich algae that can be converted into raw crude oil. With 12 * First Quarter 2014 just a little additional treatment-sterilization, membrane filtration or disinfection - the water can even be used for drinking. "Although it is still in the testing phases, the process promises to be a holistic, sustainable solution to wastewater treatment that will lower costs for the utility manager and reduce the costs of producing biofuels," said Rob McElroy, P.E., general manager of Daphne Utilities. Treating wastewater with algae is nothing new, but there are some problems inherent in current processes. The huge, shallow raceways that hold the mixtures in most typical algae treatment systems require acres of land that might be better used for other purposes. "In addition, the process has significant environmental barriers such as evaporating a huge amount of water. It is also not commonly very cost-effective because of all the energy that you have to put into it to keep the mixture stirred," said McElroy. While algae are by far the most productive product that can be used to create a biofuel, the cost of conversion has been a problem there as well. As a result, biofuels have not been very costcompetitive with oil to date. The new system being developed by Algae Systems and tested in the Daphne Utilities service area removes not only the land costs and environmental issues but also the cost of power required for mixing the solution properly. In addition, Algae Systems has developed a proprietary process that will make the conversion of algae to raw crude oil significantly more cost-effective. Gaining control over valuable resources Algae Systems has been working on the development of this new water treatment process for five years. It was tested first with NASA, in the company's own laboratories, and with university wave pool labs. After the success of these initial trials, Algae Systems looked for a partner that could provide a setting for a largerscale, real-world test. It found the right collaborator in Daphne Utilities, which provides water, electric and gas service to a small

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Water - Quarter 1, 2014

From the President
Alternative Energy
A Paperless Option
Board Orientation Has Multiple Benefits
The Nrwa Revolving Loan Fund
Rural Water Rally 2014
State Association of the Year
Regulatory Update
Throwing My Loop
Index to Advertisers/ advertisers.com
From the CEO

Rural Water - Quarter 1, 2014

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