A Long-Term, Sustainable Alternative

Jan. 29, 2007

About the author: Clint Elston is president of the Equaris Corp. He can be reached at 651/337-0261 or by e-mail at [email protected].

The World Health Organization reports that 1.1 billion people worldwide lack safe drinking water today, and 2.5 billion people lack adequate sanitation. The world’s population is expected to double by 2050, greatly multiplying these critical issues.

With threats of bioterrorism against municipal water supplies, widespread conflict related to water issues, limitations on freshwater and waste treatment resources, and a large percentage of the world’s population living without proper sanitation and clean water, there is a global demand for more effective, sustainable wastewater treatment and recycling options.

Introduction and background

About 25 million households in the U.S. use decentralized wastewater systems—onsite septic or cesspool systems. Records show that in 1995, 2.5 million of these systems malfunctioned, resulting in the release of pollutants, causing health dangers, environmental compromises and substantial user costs. Such failures can be attributed to improper citing, poor system design and installation practices, and improper operation and maintenance.

Many communities throughout the U.S. are approaching or surpassing existing sewage treatment plant capacities and are not able to satisfy service demands for new residential and commercial users. Individual states and the federal government cannot provide the trillions of dollars that are required to repair and expand wastewater treatment facilities and infrastructure systems, and the situation is causing economic stagnation in many communities, as well as contamination of ground-water, lakes and streams.

Neither septic systems nor municipal piped water and sewage systems are capable of removing most chemicals from the wastewater stream. Pharmaceuticals, nitrates and other untreated chemicals discharged by sewage treatment plants are damaging the environment all over the world, with effects that include water quality compromises and genetic damage to wildlife.

In many communities, sewage treatment system decisions are commonly made in the private sector on the basis of financial considerations.

In communities with no centralized facilities, developers typically select the most familiar, affordable and easily installed onsite systems. Once installed, such systems may not be maintained or inspected unless malfunctions occur, which can result in contamination of groundwater and surface water.

Unfortunately, outdated state and local regulatory codes discourage the use of new technologies, even those with proven performance, resulting in economic loss as well as inferior waste treatment performance.

Even at their best, conventional waste treatment systems cannot meet reasonable performance standards. They do not reduce nutrient pollution or pharmaceutical contamination, they require large volumes of water and substantial land area, they rely on dilution rather than removal, and they cannot be sustained indefinitely.

The U.S. operates with an aging infrastructure for both municipal water and sewer systems, which is stressed by population growth and increasing demand. The pressures on wastewater treatment and municipal water resources will place increasing financial pressure on states, cities, businesses and individuals. There is a clear need for new options and process technologies to deliver these important services.

A process solution Fortunately, technological advances have been made in separating and treating pollutants at the source that offer great promise for improving wastewater treatment and meet global health and environmental needs. A new proprietary treatment process, called separation technology wastewater treatment, has the ability to serve as a viable, long-term alternative to centralized wastewater facilities for residences and commercial properties.

This separation technology combines patented waste treatment systems with ultra-low-flush toilets and garbage disposals. Blackwater from these sources is plumbed to a bio-matter resequencing converter, and greywater is treated separately using aerobic biological treatment. Total water recycling is then possible utilizing ozone, ultraviolet, ultrafiltration and reverse osmosis.

In many cases, separation technology wastewater treatment can eliminate the need for piped water service to a residence or commercial facility. Rainwater catchment, filtration, disinfection and cistern storage can serve modest water makeup requirements.

Separation technology wastewater treatment and point-of-use reuse applications may be equipped with smart control capabilities so that equipment performance can be monitored remotely via the Internet. Such monitoring infrastructure ensures the water and wastewater system’s operational effectiveness, helps ensure healthier indoor and outdoor environments, and can be provided in conjunction with other remote services such as fire and security protection.

Installation examples

A recent greywater treatment and water recycling commercial installation at the Robert Redford Natural Resources Defense Council office building in Santa Monica, Calif., has been awarded a platinum rating under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Program, which pronounced this structure the “Greenest Building in the USA.” Documented testing of this installation demonstrates that this separation technology treatment system produces safer and better quality water than that provided by the city of Santa Monica municipal water supply for drinking.

A residential separation technology blackwater and greywater treatment installation with a very small (3 x 16 ft) greywater leachfield serves a family in southern Virginia. This remote location could not accommodate conventional septic treatment because of heavy clay soils.

In another residential installation, this one at a picturesque and challenging site along the rocky shore of Lake Superior in northern Minnesota, separation technology wastewater treatment makes it possible for the owners of a large year-round occupied home to handle human and organic waste and deliver high quality drinking and household water while having minimal impact on the home’s pristine north woods environment.

Properly managed decentralized separation systems can meet practical needs and public health requirements while satisfying and exceeding federal, state and local water quality standards. This waste-handling approach is a cost-effective alternative, and can accommodate a variety of site situations and soil conditions.

Funding opportunities

Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) programs in each state are capitalized by federal and state contributions for the purpose of low-interest loans for water quality projects. CWSRF programs represent a useful resource for best water management practices funding, and some states are focusing these funds to address planning and regulatory issues as well as to finance the upgrading of residential septic system deficiencies. CWSRF funding applications are made through authorized representatives in each state.

Financing for new, more effective technologies may also be available through Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) resources on a state level. Both of these programs are supported by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) policies, and the EPA encourages states to address a wide range of water quality issues on the basis of regional environmental priorities.


Separation blackwater and grey-water treatment combined with water recycling technologies produces high-clarity, mineral-free, biologically clean water suitable for total reuse. This allows the residential or commercial property owner to reduce wastewater pollution by as much as of 99% and overall water consumption by 95% by recycling all household greywater. Tests show that with proper black-water handling using separation technology, 95% of all organic wastes, pharmaceutical residues and flush water in the waste stream are converted aerobically and biologically to H2O and CO2, leaving only a small volume of odorless and biologically neutral byproduct (amounting to 5% original volume).

In contrast with conventional treatment systems, decentralized separation systems reduce water consumption, protect groundwater resources, eliminate viruses and pathogens, and isolate resources from bioterrorism threats. Separation technology is able to substantially reduce nutrient and pharmaceutical pollution. It does not require large water and land area volumes or costly piped infrastructure, does not rely on ineffective and unsustainable dilution, and effectively safeguards groundwater and surface water resources.

About the Author

Clint Elston

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