Blanket of Protection

March 22, 2007

About the author: Michael Munninger is vice president of Eco Systems and the project manager. He can be reached at 888/834-7975, or by e-mail at [email protected].

Dale Keller is president of Eco Systems Southwest. He can be reached at 888/834-7975 or by e-mail at [email protected].


When the Tonto-Apache Tribe decided to expand its casino operations to include a 101-room hotel, complete with convention space and food service operations, on their 87-acre reservation, they needed technology that would provide dependable, high-quality wastewater treatment results. They wanted a complete treatment system that would allow for growth and fit into a relatively small footprint.

Buying and operating their own system gave them financial and practical incentive to keep the water they were purchasing. The tribe would have to pay to hook up to the town’s treatment system and would no longer own the water.

“Being able to keep our water for the newly built hotel/casino and the convention center’s fire suppression system and other future needs was a no-brainer, given the shortage of water in the Southwest,” said Ivan Smith, chief tribal member.

“We found that USBF (upflow sludge blanket filtration clarifier) Technology would give us the ability to process our wastewater into very clean and useable Class A effluent that would provide future generations with options they would have otherwise not had. The ease of operation and low operating cost were compelling attributes. When it was learned that no chemicals were needed to achieve Class A results, we were comforted knowing that ‘chemotherapy’ would not be necessary as with every other system.

The Tonto-Apache believe that water is the ‘blood of the earth.’”

The relatively small amount of land that was needed, coupled with the speed at which a facility could be up and running, meant the newly constructed tribal gaming and hospitality operations could open on schedule.

ECOfluid Systems, Inc.’s USBF Technology was the recipient of the Frost & Sullivan 2006 Award for Packaged Wastewater Treatment Technology Leadership of the Year. This technology was deployed it into a permanent concrete vault and masonry structure that classifies the plant as a Wastewater Treatment Plant—complete with laboratory space, human resource facilities, office space and back-up power.

First of its kind

The Tonto-Apache Plant is the first of its kind in Arizona and also includes a SCADA system that will provide oversight and reporting capabilities to ensure trouble-free and real-time verifiable operation.

The USBF process is a modification of the normal activated sludge process that incorporates an anoxic selector zone and an upflow sludge blanket filtration clarifier all in one integrated bioreactor vessel. The treatment includes efficient reduction of BOD5 and TSS, but also biological nutrient removal by the processes of dentrification and “biological luxury uptake.”

The system is compact and modular, taking up less space and containing few moving parts. The result is an efficient, highly affordable wastewater treatment plant with low maintenance and operating costs. USBF technology has no inherent capacity limits and is used in a wide range of applications. Plants serving the domestic and municipal sectors or treating industrial, food-processing and agricultural wastewater are in successful operation worldwide.

The high-treatment efficiency of the advanced secondary USBF process opens the door to cost-effective ‘tertiary’ post-treatment. The process has been increasingly utilized in the design of the tertiary effluent (Class A or Title 22) water reclamation plants.

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