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Poo-Gloos treat sewage as quickly and effectively as mechanical plants, but cost less

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January 12, 2011

Poo-Gloos (Bio-Domes) prior to submersion in a sewage lagoon

Poo-Gloos (Bio-Domes) prior to submersion in a sewage lagoon

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Poo isn't something generally talked about in polite company but like it or not, all of that human waste has to go somewhere. In smaller rural communities, it usually goes to wastewater lagoon systems; the alternative is mechanical treatment plants which process waste far more quickly but are expensive, labor intensive and often use chemicals. Enter the "Poo-Gloo," or Bio-Dome as it is officially known – an igloo-shaped device that can reportedly clean up sewage as effectively, but far more cheaply, than its mechanical counterparts. The Poo-Gloo, developed by Wastewater Compliance Systems, Inc., uses a combination of air, dark environment and large surface area to encourage the growth of a bacterial biofilm which consumes the wastewater pollutants. It is claimed that Poo-Gloos can treat pollutants just as quickly as mechanical plants while operating at a fraction of the cost – hundreds of dollars a month rather than thousands – and can be retrofitted to existing lagoon systems.

The Poo-Gloos work in clusters, with two dozen or more arranged in rows fully submerged at the bottom of the lagoon. Each Poo-Gloo consists of four concentrically nested plastic domes filled with plastic packing to provide a large surface area for bacterial growth. Rings of bubble-release tubes sit at the base of every Poo-Gloo and bubble air up through the cavities between domes. The air exits a hole in the top of each dome. As air moves through the dome, it draws water from the bottom of the lagoon up through the dome and out the top.

Individual Poo-Gloos create 2,800 square feet (260 square meters) of surface area for bacterial growth while taking up just 28 square feet (2.6 square meters) of space. In comparison with labor-intensive mechanical plants, Poo-Gloos require little maintenance. They use the same amount of electricity as a 75-watt bulb and can even be powered with solar or wind energy systems, further reducing the cost.

Taylor Reynolds, director of sales for Wastewater Compliance Systems says that most of the projects he quotes are between US$150,000 and $500,000, a far more palatable option for an average municipality than the $4 million to $10 million they are quoted for a mechanical plant.

A pilot study to evaluate Poo-Gloo performance at different water temperatures, levels of aeration, sewage volumes and concentrations yielded impressive results:

  • Biological oxygen demand – a measure of organic waste in water – was reduced consistently by 85 percent using Poo-Gloos, and ranged as high as 92 percent

  • Total suspended solids fell consistently by 85 percent, and ranged as high as 95 percent

  • Ammonia levels dropped more than 98 percent with Poo-Gloo treatment in warmer water and, more importantly, by as much as 93 percent when temperatures dropped below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) – conditions that normally slow bacterial breakdown of sewage

  • Total nitrogen levels fell 68 percent in warmer water and 55 percent in cooler water

Poo-Gloos have been deployed in six states in the U.S. in either a full installation or pilot environment, and in all cases have successfully met pollution-control requirements.

The Poo-Gloo is not just for consuming poo, however. Wastewater Compliance Systems is in the process of filing patents for other applications and markets, hence the rebranding as Bio-Dome, which the company agrees is "less fun" but more appropriate for their diversification.

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14 Comments

"The Poo-Gloo is not just for consuming poo, however."

There's a sentence you don't write every day.

alcalde
12th January, 2011 @ 01:12 pm PST

Looks. Like a typical nitrifying filter used in my aquarium. I've used bacteria in my tanks for years to get rid of ammonia, decaying plant matter and fish poo. Nowadays you can buy bacterial products used in sewage treatment for your pet aquatic animals.

quatermass
12th January, 2011 @ 02:07 pm PST

Could this product be used to help deal with factory farm waste as well as human? I'm no fan of factory farms, but if their impact on the environment could be reduced that would be very worthwhile.

Loving It All
13th January, 2011 @ 06:03 am PST

" Each Poo-Gloo consists of four concentrically nested plastic domes filled with plastic packing to provide a large surface area for bacterial growth."

If the number of concentrically nested plastic domes as well as the amount of air bubbles were increased, what would happen? Is there a limit on the height for the system to work? Is it possible for sewage treatment plants to be constructed more vertical?

Adrian Akau
13th January, 2011 @ 11:25 am PST

Hi fellow Gizmag readers, my name is Taylor Reynolds. I work for Wastewater Compliance Systems.

I have to admit I am super excited about the fact that our products made it onto Gizmag, I've been a reader for a long time now, and thoroughly enjoy the site.

I wanted to take a minute to respond to some of your questions:

@ quatermass: The underlying principles are exactly the same. The cheapest method of treating waste is to allow mother nature do the work for you. Our device is simply designed to provide a home for the bacteria so that they can develop in much higher concentrations and provide treatment at an accelerated rate.

@ Loving it All: It absolutely can be used to deal with factory farm waste. We are currently working with a number of organizations around the world to develop and fine tune our products to help clean up the waste from dairies and hog farms.

If you have any other questions please don't hesitate to post here, or email us through our "contact us" page.

-T

Taylor
13th January, 2011 @ 11:47 am PST

Dear Taylor or anyone else at Wastewater Compliance,

My question is along the lines of what Loving it All asked. Maybe you could clarify this further. I understand the design concept, but how or why exactly did you settle on these specific dimensions? Why 4 concentric domes? Why not make each Poo Gloo /BioDome half the size? Why not double the size? Why not 3 concentric domes rather than 4? Why not 8 concentric domes? Did you somehow model the design to find what the optimum choice for each of these considerations is?

Thanks!

WintersEdge
13th January, 2011 @ 04:19 pm PST

@wintersedge: We actually do produce various sizes as the project requires. Our "standard" size however is very compatible with most lagoon which are between 6 - 8 feet deep. Regarding the other aspects of our design, it was lot of trial and error and intuitive thinking on the part of the inventor Kraig Johnson. The idea was to create a device that was as big as possible without becoming too cumbersome to move, install, or service. Theoretically the bigger we make them the more a single poo-gloo could handle, but that would also increase cost, weight, manufacturing challenges and a whole other host of issues. Poo-gloos are a combination of solid science and practical engineering.

Taylor
13th January, 2011 @ 09:19 pm PST

"Theoretically the bigger we make them the more a single poo-gloo could handle, but that would also increase cost, weight, manufacturing challenges and a whole other host of issues."

Thank you, Taylor, for your answer to the question best summarized as: How much poo could a poo-gloo shoo if a poo-gloo grew in situ?

"Poo-gloos are a combination of solid science and practical engineering."

And poo.

alcalde
14th January, 2011 @ 05:25 pm PST

I'm currently looking at biogas digesters for a dvelopment of about 30 houses with about 90 people, and would like to harvest the methane gas for water heating etc. What happens to the methane gas with the "poogloo"?

agsjackson
24th January, 2011 @ 06:33 am PST

To Taylor:

This device looks absolutely awesome. I'm not too sure what the exact processes are chemically, between the bacterial digestion and excretion, and whether or not agsjackson is on to something with the methane and other gases. In particularly, nitrogen oxides and methane.

Perhaps you could share where the gases go and whether or not you trap them in a filter or container.

Another thing, where could I buy shares in this product and company?

See you at the next shareholders meeting

JarrodB
24th January, 2011 @ 09:31 pm PST

Also to Taylor,

Interesting and seems useful in speeding up whatever.

Can you clarify that waste is dumped in lagoon and breaks down in water? Water/waste mixture is sucked through the domes and the contaminants in that water is broken down further in the domes' inner structures where bacteria grows better, faster, stronger? And these domes also decrease o2 requirements and result in less toxic lagoons for longer periods?

Fred Meyers
30th January, 2011 @ 07:51 pm PST

Taylor,

Could very small Bio-Domes work in fish tanks? Air is already being bubbled through. Also, could a relatively small enclosed Bio-Dome system be developed in place of a septic tank?

Adrian Akau
1st February, 2011 @ 11:13 am PST

Thanks for all your questions everyone:

@ agsjackson - Methane gas is generally a by product of anaerobic digestion. As our products incorporate and rely on aeration for mixing and the oxygen, our systems are not immediately suitable for the generation of Methane.

@ JarrodB - The primary gases produced by the poo-gloos are N2, and CO2 when we are denitrifying to remove the nitrates from the water. As with the rest of the air being fed to the poo-gloos both gases escape into the atmosphere. Regarding investment. We are a private company, if you are serious about your desire to invest, contact us directly and you can discuss the matter with the appropriate individuals within the company.

@ Fred Meyers - I'm not sure I understand your post 100%, but lagoons are a typical treatment alternative particularly in rural areas. The idea behind lagoons is to create a holding pond with a very long retention time so that mother nature can do all the work over that period. The poo-gloos are intended to greatly increase the concentration of bacteria in the lagoon, growing inside, and thus accelerate the decomposition of the pollutants of interest. Because our design induces the direct contact of O2 with the bacteria we experience a much higher oxygen transfer efficiency and don't need to pound as much air into the water as traditional aeration systems. The result is absolutely less toxic discharge.

@ Adrian - There are actually plenty of home made designs for fixed film filters floating around on the internet for fish tanks. The fundamental technology of our products is not new, instead our IP and what makes us unique is the shape and design of the poo-gloos that make them so much more efficient than traditional fixed-film bio-reactors.

Thanks for the interest and keep the questions coming. I'll be checking this post at least once a week.

Taylor
1st February, 2011 @ 08:20 pm PST

Hey any potential viewers of this post:

We really appreciate all the input and feedback we've received from you all.

I have a favor to ask of you now:

I'm trying to convince Mike Rowe and the Dirty Jobs crew to come visit our site for an episode where we're performing some maintenance on our very first installation job site but we need help in convincing them that an episode surrounding "poo-gloos" is a good idea. If you could hop over to the Dirt Job Forum and rate our suggestion entitled "Poo-Gloo re-do" We would really appreciate it.

http://community.discovery.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/8251971108/m/78219788701

Taylor

Taylor
1st March, 2011 @ 06:58 am PST
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