Wastewater treatment system mimics ecosystem

Tuesday, 05 March, 2019 | Supplied by: John Todd Ecological Design

A wastewater treatment system developed by John Todd Ecological Design (JTED) mimics the processes of a natural ecosystem via a self-contained network of natural ecological systems that support microorganisms that eat toxic waste.

Most wastewater treatment systems involve some form of biological process to break down waste, usually requiring chemical intervention to complete the process. The JTED Eco-Machine system features constructed wetlands with interacting organisms, biological processes and sand filtration to purify water without the use of chemicals.

The Eco-Machine wastewater treatment system was recently certified under the Living Building Challenge, achieving a Waste Petal for the installation at the Omega Centre for Sustainable Living in Rhinebeck, New York, by virtue of its ability to transform wastewater into non-potable water and valuable humus. To be certified under the Challenge, projects must meet a series of performance requirements including net zero energy, waste and water over a minimum of 12 months of continuous occupancy. The Omega Centre itself was recently certified under the Living Building Challenge criteria for compliance as ‘Living’.

The wastewater treatment system employed at Rhinebeck mimics processes of the natural world, using a combination of microorganisms, algae, plants, gravel and sand filtration to clean wastewater and return clean, drinkable water to the aquifer. The process involves collecting and storing wastewater from toilets, sinks, basins and showers, which is then fed to microscopic algae, fungi, bacteria, plants and snails. Following this, wastewater flows to constructed wetlands where microorganisms and native plants reduce biochemical oxygen demand, remove odorous gases, continue the denitrification process and harvest nutrients such as phosphorous.

From the wetlands, wastewater moves to internal aerated lagoons where plants, fungi, algae, snails and other microorganisms convert ammonia into nitrates and toxins into harmless base elements. Wastewater then moves from these lagoons to an outdoor recirculating sand filter to meet advanced wastewater standards. The water can then be dispersed to groundwater or used for irrigation, toilet flushing and recharging of the aquifer.

Image courtesy of John Todd Ecological Design.

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