While Columbus taxpayers will spend billions of dollars to stop sewage from spilling into the Scioto River and other waterways, the city could save money by investing in sand instead, according to an Ohio State University researcher.
A system using sand and the bacteria it contains could treat sewage before it hits water, Karen Mancl, the project’s lead researcher, told the Columbus Dispatch
Mancl has spent more than three years studying bioreactor systems, which date back to the 1800s. Through the system, sewage flows into sand, where bacteria digest ammonia, phosphorus, and other pollutants. The water flowing from the bioreactor then contains only trace amounts of pollutants, she said.
The treatment system would be ideal for wastewater triggered by storms. “You get a very high burst of this wastewater and then long periods where you don’t have any at all,” Mancl noted.
Traditional systems rely on a smaller, constant flow of wastewater, which is sent to bacteria-containing tanks, but the systems can be overcome by storm surges, sending contaminated wastewater to overflow pipes and waterways.
Columbus is spending $2.5 billion over the next 40 years to eliminate overflows because of a court settlement with state and federal environmental protection agencies.
Most of the money is being spent on larger sewer lines and by increasing treatment plant capacity, but Mancl said laboratory tests show bioreactors placed at the end of overflow outlets work also meet Environmental Protection Agency pollution limits.
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