Saturday, February 25, 2006

Will Peak Oil Economics will kill Tri-W?

The post oil economy begins now.
The scramble is on with 1.5 Billion Chinese jumping on the energy consumption bandwagon. Our per capita share of energy will have to drop by 50% in the next ten years to accommodate China and India. It's the law of supply and demand. You WILL pay double or more for the same amount of energy. Hence, if we continue pursue anything but zero energy waste solutions, small scale ecologically sound solutions, we will fall prey to the realities of energy economics. The O&M for the Tri-W project would have gone up 300% even before it could have been completed. Simply, it will become unaffordable to operate. Plus, the costs for constructing anything like the Tri-W project are totally out of control because of shortages derived from energy shortfalls right now. As a licenced General Contractor for 25 years I have never seen anything like it. Prices on construction materials are going through the roof. It's becoming unmanagable to give a fixed price on anything.

So if we want to have a functioning community in the near future we have to completely rethink how to clean up the ground water basin using near ZERO energy. With Tri-W, you have been sold a nineteen fifties solution in a 2100 century world by the same greed that has brought our federal government to the brink of corruption meltdown.

Let's think big for EVERYBODY a minute. Let's ponder that we want to remove 30% percent of the nitrates from our ground water and recharge the basin just like the Tri-W project with zero energy input. Could we do it? Yes......

First we remove every garbage disposal in Los Osos and set up community collection and composting. This cuts blackwater solids and BOD (wastewater oxygen demand) by fifty percent from the input side. Energy cost -ZERO. We take sink garbage out of the digestion loop. Now we have cut nitrates on the front end by 15%. Remember, Tri-W was only going to remove 30% of the nitrogen. (7mg/l vs. 10mg/l) We only have 15% more to go.

Next improve anaerobic digestion that occurs in your septic tank. A symbiotic relationship of five different micro-organisms is responsible for nitrate reduction in your septic tank. Over pumping your septic tank actually increases nitrates because it takes time for the biological community in your tank to actualize nitrogen assimilation.

The worst thing for the bioreaction is water surges like your washing machine or shower. Both are grey water development friendly. Even taking these loads and setting up surge tanks for them or bipass to the leachfield would help the bireaction of nitrates in the septic tank. Once you optimize the nitrogen metablism you are correctly optimizing nitrate reduction. Eliminating surges, garbage wastes, grease, and microbe killing household cleaners helps with anerobic digestion of nitrogen.

The next generation of residential nitrogen reduction will be small scale filter media beds. Basically large surface areas in small spaces for the anaerobic microbes to call home- Read here about modern anaerobic bioreactors, a step beyond septic tanks:

There is no sound science supporting bi-monthly pumping that I can find. Bacteria eats nitrogen. Bacteria in the septic tank. Bacteria in the ground. Remove the bacteria in the septic tank and you INCREASE ionic nitrogen! Were did these guys get their Biology degree? If its solids reduction that the RWQCB is after then.......

Then we install solids filtration and pump the tanks every two years. This is just a first step. Again near ZERO energy consumption. It needs to be cleaned every two years and looked at every six months.

Now you still have blackwater with high oxygen demand so you install after the tank, but before the leachfield, an Aerobic digester. You oxygenate the water to add aerobic bacteria to the digestion process. You could do this with DC photovoltaic driven compressor pumps. What you are doing is the same thing you do with a fish tank. You bubble air in the water to calrify it. Again near ZERO energy consumption. (.5 to 3 KWH/day) This would cover all systems that had the correct groundwater separation in Los Osos. The end product is as clean as the Tri-W output water.

You would need a maintaince contract and a waste discharge permit from the RWQCB and possibly a deed restriction to carryover your maintaince program to the next buyer. But your O&M is purely human oversight and human labor at .5 killowatt per man day. Almost NO energy input. Savvy? A system like this is installed in 400 Texas residences and is approved for California use in the Chico area with problems similar to ours:
So far I haven't suggested any owner oriented lifestyle changes except eliminating garbage disposals but if it was in the discharge permit and it would save you $175.00 per month you would consider it I bet.
Here is your Areobic primer:

Aerobic digestion (with molecular oxygen) is far more complete. Aerobic digestion takes place in a properly constructed and maintained drain, as well as in an aerobic treatment device (ATU). In an ATU, the aerobic bacteria are selected out from any remaining aerobic bacteria which survive the trip through the septic tank, or are facultative bacteria which can exist both with and without molecular oxygen, or are random seed bacteria which are everywhere in our environment. In the soil, there are hundreds of different types of organisms that proliferate in the trenches where there is a regular supply of nutrients (septic tank effluent). Biological mats develop on the sides and bottoms of the trenches and add to a biological filtration of the effluent passing through it into the soil environment. The structure of these mats are due in part to the long filaments often growing out of several common strains of soil bacteria. If biomats are improperly managed, the growth can become so thick that the pores in the soil structure surrounding the disposal trench can become clogged. With the right balance of molecular oxygen to influent, the biological mat can be maintained as a benefit to the water treatment, and the wastes can be degraded completely to carbon dioxide and water allowing the aerobic treatment to go to completion.

Aerobic treatment in a trench or in an ATU is complete digestion and can achieve the following reductions of influent contaminant levels:

Water Quality Parameter % Removal In A Septic Tank
BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand) 75% to 90%
COD (Chemical Oxygen Demand) 75% to 90%
TSS (Total Suspended Solids) 75% to 90%
Ammonia (Changed to Nitrate - N) 80% to 90%
Enteric Bacteria generally high but variable
Enteroviruses generally high but variable
Protozoa generally high but variable

So how does this measure up to Tri-W? Zero energy consumption. Equal or better water clarity and nitrate cleanup. Diffuse groundwater recharge. No real lifestyle change. And you don't have to kick out all the poor people in Los Osos to pay for it. For about 12,000 dollars per parcel or 12,000X2900=34 Million dollars for existing homes.

Low lying systems, the more pricey properties near the bay, would need pressurized ET wetland leachfields with lined, covered, beds or micro community plants with energy input a prime design factor.

Recharge? How about recharge credits by leaving the water in the ground. What is a recharge credit worth when just outside the city farmer's are allowed to pump all the water they want?
The real problem with the basin ground water managment is the legal structure that allows rampant pollution and consumption by Agriculture and squeezes urban users to make up for it. But that's another topic.


Blogger Mike Green said...

Great article Steve, Glad to see you are back!

3:31 PM, February 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonderful article, Steve. I do hope you will be commenting on March 23 at the RWQCB?

4:56 PM, February 25, 2006  
Blogger Shark Inlet said...

Maybe it's due to my lack of knowledge about septic systems and how they all work, but it seems that you are confusing the various forms of nitrogen.

In particular, we've got a problem with nitrates entering our groundwater. My understanding is that the septic tank converts amonia into nitrates and that the soil column below the leach field that will remove the nitrates ... if there is enough soil of the right sort between the leach field and the groundwater.

At the last meeting or the one before that Chuck made the point clear ... it is the soil that removes the nitrates ... or should in an ideal system.

So, bringing this back full circle ... how does this idea help with nitrate removal?

10:25 AM, February 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Steve have been anxiously waiting to read you again for quite awhile. Keep it up and please think about participating at the hearings. your golden.

10:44 AM, February 27, 2006  
Blogger Sewertoons said...

Nice energy in your writing, but could you cite your source(s) on your sweeping garbage disposal statement "This cuts blackwater solids and BOD (wastewater oxygen demand) by fifty percent from the input side?" (Our household for instance, poops way more than it grinds.) Also, how do think you can police the use of an environmentally friendly shower cleanser over a destructive chemical cleanser if you are going the reuseable gray water route?

Also, the RWQCB wants NO discharging of waste into the groundwater. If you can convince them that this is an OK substitute for pumping, fine. But $12,000 per household for at a 30% reduction on waste treatment that is only good until a sewer is made available in 2010 (or the fines will commence) seems a little pricey, as I don't think you are going to change the Basin Plan.

11:11 PM, February 27, 2006  
Blogger sewermonk said...

Ooh, very good stuff, Steve. I hope important thinkers realize that the zero energy sewer plan could be the finest moment in our sewer wars. I hope we can be wise and strong enough to get there.
Requesting a new RWQCB staff and that Roger Briggs recuse himself from any other interaction with Los Osos wastewater decisions would give Los Osos a chance.

12:47 AM, March 04, 2006  
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