We recently completed construction of a wastewater treatment system at another busy highway rest area, located in a rugged area at high elevation. The system is designed to remove nitrogen from the high strength wastewater encountered at this facility. Highway rest areas are common across the country, but what is not common is the knowledge that the wastewater they generate is much more concentrated than residential wastewater. In fact, just about the only facilities that produce residential strength wastewater are residences, and we've actually encountered a fair number of residences that produce the higher strength wastewater more typical of restaurants or other commercial applications. We have a lot of experience working with restaurants, RV parks, campgrounds, churches, rest areas etc. and they all produce wastewater that is considerably stronger than that produced by average homes. This fact has caused real problems for many different facilities because the design engineers and manufacturers of the treatment systems did not understand what the system would be receiving, or, in some situations, I suspect they understood the nature of the wastewater but turned a blind eye in order to force-fit a technology from a preferred vendor or contractor whose technology wasn't necessarily suited for the job.
I can only sigh and shake my head at a system design I read about the other day that was installed at a highway rest area in Colorado. Colorado seems to have a pretty poor track record when it comes to treatment systems at their CDOT rest areas. They apparently tried several big-name systems which I heard could never meet their discharge limits (results on file with the state confirmed this). This is a very serious environmental problem considering the sewage, after going through the system, is discharged directly to the river. The treatment systems I saw were pretty involved contraptions consisting of tanks, filters, upflow reactors, downflow reactors and more. Even after all those steps, and after the Dept invested hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars, into the system, the operator told me that they could not even come close to meeting the permit limits for the river discharge...not that it stopped anyone from continuing to discharge. So, Colorado recently tried something different.
As best as I can determine from the article, a box of magic wood chips was installed--a box of woodships that would be a panacea..."green" and "sustainable" and "zero impact", etc etc. Apparently, the bed of wood chips is installed directly under the toilets. As rest area users deposit the "stuff" onto the top of the wood chips (it helps to develop a mental image of this) it is magically transformed into pure, clean and harmless minerals. All I can think is what a mess this is going to be to clean up. If it works as promised, the entire decentrlized industry will be revolutionized! Everyone except the manufacturer of this magic box will be run out of business! Seriously, I actually hope it does work, because the last thing Colorado needs is another system spewing raw or poorly treated sewage into the environment. But, I've been working in this field for longer than I care to admit, and I predict problems. I'll be keeping my eye on the treatment results.
Eliminite take a slightly different approach...one that does not attempt to violate the First Law of Thermodynamics. Is the Eliminite a "zero impact" system? No. It requires a modest amount of power to run the pumps, and the media is engineered, it isn't just "harvested" from mother nature, though MetaRocks are made from material that is at least partially plant based and is deemed by its supplier as "green". It does take energy to produce MetaRocks. But, it takes quite a bit of energy to clear logs from a mountain forest and mechanically convert them into wood chips, too. At least MetaRocks won't need to be replaced--one batch will last the life of the system. I have my doubts about wood chips that are abused in the manner described in the article I read.
The photo shows the surface exposure of the finished treatment plant. (Sorry but I am not providing detailed photos because, as I have mentioned before, I don't really feel the need to be generous to my competitors. The last time I provided details of one of our systems, our competitor released their "new" product line which is a direct knock-off of our system. Who sets the bar in this industry, the one with the original idea or the one who copies the original idea? )
The videos below help visualize the characteristics of our patented MetaRocks. The first one shows the rough sandy surface magnified and illustrates the rough textures surface providing area for microorganisms to attach and grow. The second video shows how water behaves on the surface of MetaRocks. You can see that the rough surface "wets" as the water is dripped on it and pulls the water around in a thin film. Because the film is thin, oxygen is able to easily diffuse into the biofilm. The large pores between individual MetaRocks carry bulk air with little headloss so the entire system is easy to keep aerobic. This combination of characteristics really is not replicated in any other treatment media and is part of the reason we have such good results across a wide range of waste strength and flow.