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Wastewater Treatment Farm Concept

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.

CONSTRUCTED WETLANDS FOR FOOD, CLEAN WATER, BIOGAS AND MORE!

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.

PROJECT CONCEPT
Constructed wetlands can become resource recovery centers and food, non-food, clean water farms and biogas generators.  The optimum location for the constructed wetlands water project would be in a  developing nation having unmet challenges 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 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.

POSSIBLE PRODUCTS

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.

BACKGROUND

Wastes can be reframed as reusable resources (1). Water reuse of acid mine drainage and municipal wastewater has been demonstrated.  Fish biologist Ken Semmens, Ph.D. used 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).  Constructed wetlands also provide value in treating mining wastes and acid mine drainage (3), (4), (5), and (6).  Resource recovery evaluations even at U.S. EPA Superfund sites, such as the Iron Mountain Mine Site near Mount Shata, California are worthwhie.  Iron Mountain is an an infamous US EPA Superfund Site known for historic acid mine drainage and massive fish kills.   


Developing nations or specific sites with  mining wastes in the developed provide opportunities to use constructed wetlands as resource recycling and recovery centers.  In addition, programs to minimize wastes and lower water consumption are part of a large-scale regional sustainability strategy (8 and 9).

REFERENCES CITED


(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 

Contact: James A. Jacobs, jjacobs@clearwatergroup.com; Cell: 510-590-1098

Clearwater Group, 229 Tewksbury Ave., Point Richmond, CA 94801 USA

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