Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Roots meshed in waste materials could clean dirty water

Date:
May 6, 2010
Source:
Penn State
Summary:
Plant roots enmeshed in layers of discarded materials inside upright pipes can purify dirty water from a washing machine, making it fit for growing vegetables and flushing toilets, according to horticulturists.

Penn State horticulturist Robert Cameron stands in front of a biofilter that uses plants roots, waste materials and bacterial colonies to clean wastewater as it trickles down the pipes.
Credit: Amitabh Avasthi

Plant roots enmeshed in layers of discarded materials inside upright pipes can purify dirty water from a washing machine, making it fit for growing vegetables and flushing toilets, according to Penn State horticulturists.

"Our global fresh water supplies are fast depleting," said Robert D. Cameron, doctoral student in horticulture. "So it is critical that we begin to look at alternatives on how we can take wastewater and turn it into a resource."

Cameron and Robert D. Berghage, associate professor of horticulture, use discarded materials and a combination of plant and bacterial communities to treat water from a washing machine and other wastewater.

According to Cameron, this design is superior to previous living treatment systems in that it requires much less space and is much more efficient at removing contaminants.

"We have shown that with this system we can take wastewater from a washing machine and remove more than 90 percent of the pollutants within three days," said Cameron. "The treated water had very low levels of suspended solids and no detectable levels of e.coli."

Cameron presented the work at a meeting on organic and sustainable agriculture in Havana.

The water treatment system consists of two seven-foot long plastic corrugated pipes a foot in diameter. The researchers placed these pipes upright three feet apart in a basin containing a foot of potting soil and crushed limestone.

"We planted the three feet by five feet basin at the foot of the pipes with papyrus and horsetail reed," said Cameron. "Just like in a wetland, the roots of these plants and associated bacteria clean the water as it flows under the basin surface and through the two columns."

Both culvert pipes are filled with alternating layers of porous rocks, composted cow manure, peat moss, tire crumbs, potting soil and crushed limestone.

Researchers planted vegetables and ornamental plants -- tomatoes, peppers, rosemary, basil and orchids -- in holes drilled along the length of the pipes. They then pumped about 45 gallons of wastewater from a washing machine to the top of the two pipes.

"As the dirty water trickles down the pipes, the tight mesh created by the soil, gravel and roots filters out pollutants," explained Cameron. "Additionally, bacterial colonies among the roots eat away the dissolved organic matter while layers of iron scraps or clay can be added to trap phosphorus."

By periodically replacing the plants, pollutants not metabolized but trapped, can be removed from the system, he added.

Chemical analyses of the treated water show a reduction of nitrites from 24 parts per million to just 1.9 parts per million, a reduction of more than 90 percent.

The system is also effective in filtering out boron. While boron is a necessary micronutrient for plants, it is toxic at high levels and can accumulate in the ground.

"Our gray water sample had boron levels of about 702 parts per million," said Cameron. "But after about three days of treatment, water collected from the foot of the pipes had only about 58 parts per million -- a reduction of about 92 percent. Dozens of other pollutants were similarly reduced in two to three days."

Cameron indicates that the next phase of research will focus on the beneficial reuses of the treated wastewater such as reducing a building's need for air conditioning.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Penn State. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Penn State. "Roots meshed in waste materials could clean dirty water." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 May 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100505091958.htm>.
Penn State. (2010, May 6). Roots meshed in waste materials could clean dirty water. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100505091958.htm
Penn State. "Roots meshed in waste materials could clean dirty water." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100505091958.htm (accessed September 1, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Monday, September 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Washington Wildlife Center Goes Nuts Over Baby Squirrels

Washington Wildlife Center Goes Nuts Over Baby Squirrels

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 30, 2014) An animal rescue in Washington state receives an influx of orphaned squirrels, keeping workers busy as they nurse them back to health. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Volcano Erupts on Papua New Guinea

Raw: Volcano Erupts on Papua New Guinea

AP (Aug. 29, 2014) Several communities were evacuated and some international flights were diverted on Friday after one of the most active volcanos in the region erupts. (Aug. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Small Volcanic Eruption in Iceland

Raw: Small Volcanic Eruption in Iceland

AP (Aug. 29, 2014) Icelandic authorities briefly raised the aviation warning code to red on Friday during a small eruption at the Holuhraun lava field in the Bardabunga volcano system. (Aug. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
As Drought Continues LA "water Police" Fight Waste

As Drought Continues LA "water Police" Fight Waste

AFP (Aug. 29, 2014) In the midst of a historic drought, Los Angeles is increasing efforts to go after people who waste water. Five water conservation "cops" drive around the city every day educating homeowners about the drought. Duration: 02:17 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins