Treating wastewater with bacteria

Researchers at Sam Houston State University have developed a treatment system around a proprietary mix of bacteria that can clean wastewater quickly and efficiently.

‘We have gone from basic research into the bacteria to construction and deployment of the systems in seven years,’ said SHSU microbiologist Sabin Holland.

‘The bacteria we are working with occur naturally and can be found in a common handful of dirt. We have isolated a small subset of them, each having a specific function, to engineer a biofilm that is self-regulating and highly efficient at cleaning wastewater.’

Holland demonstrated the system’s effectiveness at several municipal and military sites by cleaning influent wastewater within 24 hours after setup to discharge levels that exceed standards established by the US Environmental Protection Agency for municipal wastewater.

‘The typical septic system or traditional waste-treatment process takes as long as 30 days and leaves as much as 40 to 50 per cent sludge,’ he said.

The technology is also scalable: ‘We can make the units for large-scale applications, or as small as a single home unit,’ Sabin added.

The research has been funded over the past three years by the US Department of Defense.

A system for the US Army will be deployed in Afghanistan and transported by standard trucks using a palletised loading system.

Sam Houston State University has selected PCD of Palestine, Texas, to form a limited-liability corporation company called Active Water Sciences (AWS) to manufacture, market, sell and further develop the systems.

The university retains a majority interest in the corporation and has licensed the technology to AWS for three years.