Our Experience

Harnessing Nutrients from Wastewater Treatment

The LIVING GREENS system provides an innovative solution for water treatment, wastewater treatment, and food production.

The Client

Investors looking to back a unique solution to water treatment, wastewater treatment, and food production

The Challenge

The ever-expanding and exponential growth of cities is beginning to overburden current infrastructure while also putting a large strain on the use and treatment of accessible water. Increasing water demand makes it critical to rethink the life-cycle of water as large scale, long-term drought is proving to be the new norm. Our need to establish a sustainable future water plan is a major priority.

Water and wastewater treatment facilities cannot be designed, expanded, and/or developed quickly enough to sustain population growth and urban sprawl. In the most recent ASCE Report Card, 2013, both water and wastewater treatment was given a “D” grade. Much of the capital investments for improvements are based on the repair and replacement of $1 trillion dollars worth of aging distribution lines.  Additionally, one of the next, most important, changes to wastewater treatment regulation will be the requirement to monitor for, and mitigate, the excessive discharge of nitrogen and phosphorous into the environment.

Beyond treatment, there are also major concerns with the appropriate use of water for food pro-duction. Our food production system requires innovation. Vast amounts of land can no longer sustain the requirements for consumption of the growing population. Food is also transported enormous distances causing nutritional loss and quality degradation. This degradation is combatted with large amounts of additives, preservatives, and pesticides which are continuing to be found to cause adverse health effects (diabetes, cancer, etc.)

So, water treatment, wastewater treatment, and food production all need innovation.

GEL Engineering Services Provided

GEL’s Andrew Cardella has developed a proposed solution to these issues by linking two increasingly used ideas together:
1) Enhanced, targeted wastewater treatment, and
2) Optimized growth containers

Enhanced wastewater treatment is designed to eliminate undesirable solids, greases, and contaminants from the waste stream, while targeting specific beneficial macro-nutrients/micronutrients to be retained for useful plant root uptake. The proposed sanitary wastewater treatment solution utilizes a three-phase system consisting of a septic tank, trickling filter, and ultrafiltration system.

This treatment process allows the most essential nutrient for plant life, nitrogen, to be retained in the treated effluent stream. Various beneficial forms of nitrogen are generated through a process called nitrification.

Once the water is treated and prepared for vegetative absorption, it is sent into an optimized growth container. The container is designed to grow the maximum amount of produce, with the most efficient amount of water, in a minimum amount of space.

Crop fertilization from various forms of wastewater has been occurring for much of human history. “An understanding of its potential for reuse to overcome shortages of freshwater existed in Minoan civilization in ancient Greece, where indications for utilization of wastewater for agricultural irrigation dates back 5000 years. Sewage farm practices have been recorded in Germany and UK since 16th and 18th centuries, respectively.” Even in modern times “controlled wastewater irrigation has been practiced in sewage farms in many countries in Europe, America and Australia since the turn of the current century.”

The Result

This idea can change the way in which we treat water by re-evaluating the life cycle and taking advantage of overlooked nutrients for beneficial use. This direct integration improves areas of concern and reduces costs from several perspectives including, but not limited to, reduced contaminant discharge, reduced environmental monitoring and mitigation, reduced pipe replacement, improved and expanded food production, reduced transportation costs, reduction in use of pesticide, herbicides, and preservatives, reduced land and water usage, reduced utility costs, etc.

This wastewater treatment facility can be a hub for neighborhoods and communities by providing for basic needs like food and water.

Once the process is proven safe and approved for use, it can be implemented in new neighborhood developments, third world communities, industrial production facilities, schools, malls, business buildings, skyscrapers, etc. These systems will not only treat water and provide food, but also create jobs. It’s an all-encompassing sustainable idea for improvement.

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