20 July 2003

The Living Machine

It looks like a botanical garden, but it’s feasting on your sewage — reclaiming waste water for reuse. It’s bioremediation in action. It’s... a Living Machine, “a natural engine to clean water, grow food, regulate climate, even repair damaged habitats.”

Living Machine Scheme

“Living Machines accelerate nature’s own water purification process. Unlike chemically based systems, Living Machines incorporate helpful bacteria, plants, snails and fish that thrive by breaking down and digesting organic pollutants.

Wastewater treatment takes place through a series of differently managed environments, a diversity of organisms that eat the waste in the water.

Each Living Machine is custom designed by the engineers of Living Machines, Inc.

Living Machines, Inc. designs each Living Machine to meet each individual client’s needs and requirements. Living Machines typically treat wastewater with six different steps (reactors) or ecologies.”

Though the outputs are not drinkable, there are a variety of agricultural and industrial uses for the processed water.

More than thirty commercial-scale and pilot facilities located throughout the United States and seven other countries, range in size between 300 and 750,000 gallons per day.

The Living Machine system in South Burlington, Vermont cleans 80,000 gallons per day of municipal sewage, an amount typically generated by approximately 1,600 residential users. The waste stream is diverted from the City’s conventional treatment plant. Waste water from the Ethel M Chocolates plant runs through a Living Machine system:

“The treated wastewater is suitable for reuse for on-site landscape irrigation. Sludge is also treated on-site by a composting reed bed, making this a zero discharge facility.”

...

Ocean Arks International is a non-profit organization founded by Living Machine inventor John Todd. Ocean Arks applies the concepts behind the Living Machine to restoring damaged environments.

“Restorer 1” is a floating Living Machine gobbling the contamination of Flax Pond in Harwich, Massachusetts.

“After Flax Pond in Harwich, Massachusetts, a popular swimming and fishing spot and source of irrigation for Cape Cod’s cranberry bogs, was closed in the mid-1980’s due to pollution, Ocean Arks deployed a ‘replacement wetland’: a sun- and wind-powered raft that cycles 100,000 gallons of pond water through nine ecological cells. Three cells harbor microbes to break down the contaminants, and the other six cells, containing typical marsh plants and animals, filter water that then returns to the pond.

Since the Lake Restorer began operation in 1990, beaches have reappeared, oxygen in the water has increased, and the biodiversity of bottom-dwelling invertebrates has blossomed. Although pollutants from the adjacent landfill and septic waste basin continue to leach into the pond from contaminated groundwater, the pond is again safe for swimming and fishing.” [source]

“During the first two years of its operation, the Restorer Living Machine assisted in the digestion of 19,000 cubic meters of anoxic sediments, greatly improving benthic diversity. Additionally, we estimate that the Restorer removes more than 5 kg of ammonia from the pond through denitrification each year in its EFB’s.” [source]

Tyson Foods’s $6 million dollar settlement with the Department of Justice for polluting Maryland’s water included funding for new measures to control the agricultural run-off. In 2001, Ocean Arks International installed an array of 12 “Restorers” to treat the industrial wastewater stream from the Tyson Foods plant in Berlin, Maryland.

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