A non-partisan, neutral perspective supporting diversity in the color of water

Friday, July 30, 2010

Treating Greywater The Oregon Way

Much has been written about The Oregon Way, in its many forms, ranging from Oregon's legendary land use laws (The Oregon Way for planning), watershed enhancement, and oceans to jump starting the economic malaise in the state (The Oregon Way for spending federal stimulus funds focusing primarily on building roads and bridges). But little has been said about how the unique geology of Oregon might be parlayed into economic stimulation in rural economies by treating greywater "The Oregon Way".

Oregon's volcanic rocks and eastern basins host minerals known as "zeolites" that have a remarkable capacity for filtering contaminants from many products. Here is a picture of a sample of zeolite from the mineral collection at Oregon State University. For example, zeolites can be used to filter wine and beer for clarification. But Oregon's industrial minerals industry is as "flat" as megabrewer's beer on a warm sunny day. How about injecting some of the federal stimulus dollars into research on greywater treatment given the national and international interest in reusing greywater?

Looking around the "peer-reviewed" literature which is so important to the Oregon Graywater Advisory Committee's work, I stumbled upon the following article in the journal Desalination.

Nurul Widiastutia, Hongwei Wua, Ming Ang, Dong-ke Zhang (2008), The potential application of natural zeolite for greywater treatment. Desalination 218:271–280.

Their conclusions?

"Natural zeolites offer the possibility for removing contaminants in water and wastewater such as inorganic cations and anions as well as microorganisms. Natural zeolites are also a promising material for the use in greywater treatment. However, no thorough investigation has been carried out with regard to using natural zeolites for greywater treatment. It is because little has been known about the fundamental characteristics of greywater. Greywater has a unique matrix of contaminants, which are different from other wastewater including municipal wastewater. The composition of greywater varies significantly from source to source. In the absence of faeces, toilet paper and kitchen waste, greywater is less polluted than municipal wastewater. However, greywater contains much higher chemical and microbiological contaminants than municipal wastewater. Also, the microorganisms tend to grow significantly in the collecting/ treatment/distributing pipeline. Therefore, further research into the feasibility of using natural zeolites to remove contaminants in greywater must be investigated. An effort to improve the natural zeolite performance is also a challenge especially in application to remove anion contaminants in greywater".

It sounds like there is an opportunity here, especially for rural Oregon where the zeolite deposits are widespread. Where to find more specific information? Check out the new maps and web-based resources completed by the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries.

I hope someone with a finger on the pulse of The Oregon Way is reading.

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