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 number goes up! But what has this to do with Biomimicry, and even more so, WRR?

Today there are two huge challenges connected with lagoon based wastewater systems…phosphorus, and cold weather ammonia removal.  Note that phosphorus is directly connected to the epidemic of harmful algae blooms occurring across the U.S., and Canada, particularly around and above the 40th parallel.  And note that non-ionized ammonia is extremely toxic.  It kills fish readily, yet most small lagoon systems see high levels, including multiples of ten or 15, being emitted from their systems during the cold months when the needed biological activity is reduced because of the cold.  Today’s small community lagoon systems just aren’t handling it.  And even with the current more relaxed political administration,  new limits have been proposed by EPA 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?

BioHaven floating islands are testing a Water Resource Recovery design that fixes all four of these challenges, a four for one.  Check this out:

  1.  Phosphorus can be tied up and harvested from BioHaven WRR systems in the form of landscape trees and native, forage fish, both of which have ready and commercial markets.  Best of all, these appropriate forms of biota can be grown and harvested, that is removed from lagoon based wastewater systems, at levels that change the paradigm around lagoon based wastewater nutrient removal, because the scalability conundrum has been responded to…see #4.
  2.  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 are essentially a form of TSS (total suspended solids).  Testing around removal of TSS is being accomplished right now. (1.)  A second test site is currently being prepped and should be up and running this winter. (2.)  The BioHaven WRR system integrates solar power driven circulation/aeration in the form of BioHaven floating streambed.  This design moves TSS into biofilm, where it is captured.  Another elegant design that essentially mimics nature’s wetland effect!
  4.  Unlike any other small community lagoon wastewater design, Floating Island International’s WRR system projects to pay for itself.  This means that the scalability issue associated with cold weather applications has been addressed.  Note, the system is not proven.  Not yet.  But if this design pays for itself, by what is essentially resource recovery…as the nutrients in lagoon based wastewater are cycled into landscape trees and forage fish, 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.