Where Biomimicry and WRR Meet

The avid wing shooter knows that every now and then someone in the hunting party scores a double.  Two birds with one or two shots in the same flurry is a cause for celebration, as it’s a rare thing!  And such experiences naturally are more rare as the combo number goes up! But what does this have to do with Biomimicry, and even more so, Water Resource Recovery (WRR)?

Today, lagoon-based wastewater systems face two huge challenges…excess phosphorus, and cold-weather ammonia removal.  Note that phosphorus is directly connected to the epidemic of harmful algae blooms (HABs) occurring across the U.S., and Canada, particularly around and above the 40th parallel.  Also note that non-ionized ammonia is extremely toxic.  It kills fish readily, yet most small lagoon systems emit high levels, including multiples of ten or 15 during the cold months. In those months, the lower temperatures reduce the needed biological activity and slow ionization of ammonia.  Today’s small community lagoon systems just aren’t handling it.  And even with the current relaxed political administration, the EPA has proposed new limits to get these levels down.

There’s another challenge too.  Microbeads of plastic are beginning to concentrate in certain waterways.  Concentrations of microbeads occur just down watershed from small lagoon based wastewater facilities.  Maybe big Water Resourse Recovery facilities too, but certainly the small ones spit these microbeads out.

That’s three problems, right?  And there’s one more, which is a different challenge, but absolutely pressing.  How does any community pay for hyper-expensive technology upgrades?

Four-in-One Solution

BioHaven floating islands are testing a Water Resource Recovery design that uses biomimicry to fix all four of these challenges. A four-for-one.  Check this out:

1. Phosphorus Transfer

BioHaven WRR systems can tie up and harvest phosphorus in the form of landscape trees and native, forage fish. Conveniently, both of which have ready and commercial markets.  Best of all, lagoon-based wastewater systems can grow (and remove) these appropriate forms of biota at levels that change the paradigm around nutrient removal, thus responding to the scalability conundrum…see #4.

2. Cold-Weather Ammonia Removal

Cold weather ammonia removal requires some heat in the presence of biofilm reactivity, and the BioHaven WRR system with extensive solar panel integration provides this.  The design is beyond elegant!  And the system projects to pay for itself…see #4.

3. Microplastics Withdraw

Essentially, microplastics fall under the classification of total suspended solids (TSS).  Today, research is addressing removal of TSS and a second test site should be up and running this winter. However, our current design already has the right idea. The BioHaven WRR system integrates solar-power-driven circulation/aeration in the form of BioHaven floating streambed.  This design moves, and captures TSS in biofilm.  Another elegant design that essentially biomimics nature’s wetland effect!

4. The Cost Factor

 Unlike any other small community lagoon wastewater design, Floating Island International’s WRR system projects to pay for itself.  In other words, it addresses the scalability issue common to cold-weather applications.  Note, the system is not proven.  Not yet. But if this design pays for itself, through resource recovery, then the phosphorus and cold weather ammonia challenges have gone away!

While there is a terrific upside here, the system must be proven out.  The folks that partner in doing this, including the local businesses that take the landscape trees and forage fish into the marketplace, are today’s environmental heroes, the pioneers. Let’s hope they don’t get “shot” with arrows!  On the other hand, this “four-for-one” prospect is where we as a culture need to go.

several floating islands positioned in a wastewater treatment lagoon
This cold-climate wastewater pond is being treated by BioHaven technology that incorporates solar power. Installed in November 2006 and still working.