As municipalities deal with declining tax receipts, increased population, and aging infrastructure, the cost of wastewater treatment plants has become a huge issue. Many wastewater treatment plants are in need of an upgrade, which can easily cost US$4 to $10 million for a small town. When budgets are stretched tight, however, raising taxes or issuing bonds for such an infrastructure expense is a tough sell.
All that food waste, human waste, and detergent has got to be somehow treated. Many smaller treatment plants use surface-aerated basins, or lagoons, to treat all that waste water and sewage. The lagoons allow oxygen and microbes to work on everything we flush down the drain in our homes and offices, or technically, degrade the waste before it is sent to the final stages of treatment. And here again is where small towns face a challenge: besides the costs involved in upgrading a wastewater treatment plant, many of these communities are outgrowing the capacity that these lagoons can currently handle. One Utah-based firm, however, has come up with a more cost-effective and safer solution to treating all that collective “gunk.”
Originally called “poo-gloos” by their inventors, Waste Compliance Systems, Inc. has developed what the company calls Bio-domes. The Bio-domes, which look like ebony-colored igloos, consist of several layers of nested domes that are infused with low-pressure air. The air provides more oxygen, which stimulates the growth of naturally occurring bio-films, and in turn allow more beneficial bacteria to do their work and break down all that home and office waste. Simply put, the Bio-domes allow for far greater surface area for the bacteria to break down solids, ammonia, nitrogen, and oxides that you really do not want spewed back into your local environment. Bio-domes can be placed on a wastewater treatment plant’s lagoon floor, which then provide more surface area for oxygen and bacteria to work in tandem.
The Bio-domes are five feet high, six feet in diameter, and weigh about 850 pounds. Municipalities can install them incrementally, meeting the needs of a community’s infrastructure as it grows in population. For local officials, access to such a solution can keep their waste treatment systems compliant, and prevent the discharge of harmful waste that can occur when a treatment plant operates at a rate over its designed capacity. And at a cost of US$150,000 to $500,000 based on the size of a project, Bio-domes can be a cost-effective way to update our sewage treatment plants and ensure safe water supplies while reducing the risk of further contaminating our lakes, rivers, or wetlands.