Wastewater Treatment Farms for Food, Non-Food, Clean Water Production, and Biogas Generation by James A. Jacobs
The local wastewater treatment plant which has long been stigmatized due to the strong stench on a hot summer day must be reconsidered as a respectable member of society: as a resource recycling facility. As a commissioner of a local sewerage agency since 2002, I have long been interested in rethinking raw sewage as an unsightly and smelly waste product to a more dignified source of raw materials for other products and ecoservices.
In an effort to prove that even simple constructed wetlands can become resource recovery centers and food, non-food, clean water farms and biogas generators, a demonstration project area is needed to try this approach. The optimum location for the demonstration project is likely to be in a developing nation having problems with untreated human waste or polluted stormwater and a need for sustainable local agriculture and water recycling. The good news for this type of project is that there are plenty of available demonstration project locations which need low-cost, safe and healthy sanitary waste treatment services. Funding is needed for the design and implementation of a wastewater treatment farm.
This fascinating technical challenge requires the optimization of a natural wastewater treatment design based on low-cost and sustainability criteria to produce food, other non-food products, and biogas while treating wastewater. The project involves significant research, a multidisciplinary approach and team input on risk-feedback loops to guarantee safe and healthy food and non-food items produced at a wastewater treatment farm.
The water treatment farm designed for treating wastewater and underlying pond sediment produces a variety of renewable and sustainable food and non-food products: brush, shrubs or fast growing trees to harvest for timber or weaving materials, ornamental plants and flowers, fuel and animal feed from algae, fruits and vegetables, and reusable water. Fish and shellfish from aquaculture operations and captured biogas as an energy source can also be produced. The water treatment farm generates local jobs, and creates habitat and will serve to attract wildlife and tourists as an education demonstration project.
Wastes must be reframed as reusable resources. I have come to this approach after having researched and written about the reuse of acid mine drainage and municipal wastewater. I edited and co-authored a book on acid mine drainage (1), working with a multidisciplinary team of scientists and engineers. As editor, I included articles on passive acid mine drainage treatment. I have written extensively on aerobic bioremediation, and the infusion of oxygen into water. With that interest, I co-authored an article with a fish biologist related to using treated mine drainage for producing yellow perch, striped bass and three kinds of trout in West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania in the eastern United States (2). I have also worked on evaluating mining wastes and acid mine drainage for recycling as a possible resource (3), (4), (5), (6). I co-authored a resource evaluation article (7) with authors from the United States Geological Survey and the California State Mining and Geology Board on the Iron Mountain Mine in California, an infamous US EPA Superfund Site known for historic acid mine drainage and massive fish kills.
My interest in the subject of wastewater processing and waste reduction has driven my professional and community participation in the public and private sector. For the past 15 years, I have served my community in the wastewater area as an elected commissioner of the local wastewater treatment plant in Mill Valley, California. Rethinking wastewater treatment plant operations, as an elected commissioner of the local wastewater treatment plant, I have advocated for solar powering of the plant, anaerobic biogas generation improvements, and increased water recycling for irrigation use (8). As a publicly elected director of the local community services district which provides sewer collection services as well as refuse and recycling services, we have expanded recycling of batteries, paints, glass, cardboard, paper, electronics wastes, and medicines, fluorescent bulbs. In 2013, the district won the Marin County Green Business of the Year award due to our successful recycling efforts and reduction in wastes shipped to the local landfills. Recycling not only saves funds, but the removal of batteries, electronics and medicines from landfill waste does result in the reduction of toxic leaching of battery acid and other toxins from landfill groundwater and runoff and sewer waste stream (9).
(1) Jacobs, J., Testa, S. and Lehr, J., eds., 2014, Acid Mine Drainage, Rock Drainage and Sulfate Soils: Causes, Assessment, Prediction, Prevention, and Remediation, John Wiley, & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, NJ; 486 p.
(2) Semmens, K.J. and Jacobs, J.A., 2014, Sustainable Aquaculture Using Treated and Untreated Mine Water from Coal Mines p. 419-432, in eds., Jacobs, Testa and Lehr, Acid Mine Drainage (1).
(3) Jacobs, J.A., Archibald, J., and Drury, D., 2011, Sustainable Water Treatment Practices for Blue Green Algae Blooms to Restore Lakes and Reservoirs, Abstract, Proceedings September 10-14, 2011, American Institute of Professional Geologists Annual Meeting, Bloomfield, Illinois.
(4) Jacobs, J.A., 2014, Overview of Resources from Acid Drainage and Post-Mining Opportunities 361-376, in eds., Jacobs, Testa and Lehr, Acid Mine Drainage (1).
(5) Jacobs, J.A., and Testa, S.M., 2013, The Geologist’s Role in Comprehensive Rethinking of Wastes from Mine Sites into Resources; Abstracts, Proceedings October 24-25, 2013, American Institute of Professional Geologists Annual Meeting, Broomfield, Colorado.
(6) Jacobs, J.A., and Testa, S.M., 2011, Two Metals Treatments for Soil, Sludges and Water using Green Remediation Criteria, Abstract, Proceedings September 10-14, 2011, American Institute of Professional Geologists Annual Meeting, Bloomfield, Illinois.
(7) Jacobs, J. A., Testa S.M., Alpers, C.N., and Nordstrom, D.K., 2016, An Overview of Environmental Impacts and Reclamation Efforts at Iron Mountain Mine, Shasta County, California, in Applied Geology in California, ed. Anderson, R., and Ferriz, H., Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists, p. 427-446.
(8) Jacobs, J., and Elam, J., 2009, A Model of Environmental Sustainability for Managing Resources, Minimizing Wastes and Reducing Groundwater Contamination at a California Community Services District, National AIPG Meeting Proceedings; October 3-7, 2009, Grand Junction, Colorado
(9) Jacobs, J., and Elam, J., 2010, Improving Water Quality by Reducing Pharmaceutical and Residential Wastes, Managing Resources and Preventing Contamination, Association for Environmental Health and Sciences, Abstract, AEHS Proceedings March 15-18, 2010, San Diego, California
Clearwater Group, 229 Tewksbury Ave., Point Richmond, CA 94801 USA
James A. Jacobs, P.G., C.H.G.
Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved
James A. Jacobs, P.G., C.H.G.
Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved
Waste processing facilities become resource generation centers, such as the wastewater treatment farm
THE IMAGES: Hybrid striped bass, brook and brown trout (Ken Semmens) are just a few fish grown in treated mine water in the eastern United States*
Constructed wetlands provide a variety of valuable ecoservices. Passive acid mine drainage treatment uses a flow-through wetlands approach and relies on microbial communities, plants, and chemical reactions of acid drainage with limestone or organic soils to treat impacted waters (photos and drawings from Carl Zipper and Jeff Skousen)*
The Mill Valley, California wastewater facility, Sewerage Agency of Southern Marin is trickling filter treatment plant. Like many wastewater plants, it has increased water recycling, and is looking for ways to provide more environmental stewardship and educational opportunities to the community.
*Articles can be found in Jacobs, J., Testa, S. and Lehr, J., eds., 2014, Acid Mine Drainage, Rock Drainage and Sulfate Soils: Causes, Assessment, Prediction, Prevention, and Remediation, John Wiley, & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, NJ; 486 p.