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Bioreactor Saves Poultry Farm $10m

A bioreactor water treatment system designed by an Ohio State University researcher has saved an Ohio poultry farm $10 million over the next-best option.

Whitewater Processing Co. slaughters and processes between 6,000 and 8,000 turkeys and produces about 145,000 gallons of wastewater on a normal day. In the late 1990s, wastewater costs were hurting the business badly and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency expressed concerns with the company’s open-lagoon wastewater treatment system, especially with the Whitewater River so close to the facility.

Whitewater’s options were limited. The EPA first suggested it hook up to Harrison’s municipal wastewater treatment plant. But the company would still need to pretreat its water to remove pollutants that the municipal system wasn’t designed to handle, and it would still have to pay a premium to the facility. The total cost for the construction of the pretreatment facility, hook-up and use of the Harrison treatment plant over 20 years was estimated at $12.5 million.

As a result, Whitewater started working with Karen Mancl, an environmental scientist and Ohio State University Extension water quality specialist.

In 2001, Whitewater began funding research in Mancl’s lab to determine if bioreactors would work for the type of wastewater its facility generated. That funding continued year after year as Mancl, graduate students and post-doctoral researchers ran test after test in the lab. It cost $1 million to build the wastewater treatment system plus an estimated $1.8 million to operate and maintain it over the next 20 years.

The bioreactor system works like this: First, the wastewater is screened to remove as much of the suspended solids as possible before it is flowed through beds of sand and gravel. Microbes quickly populate the surface of the sand grains and gravel pieces, and they feast on the organic matter, breaking it down and removing it from the water. Treated water runs clear.

In March, BioShaft Water Technology announced it had been awarded several industrial and domestic contracts to install wastewater treatment and recycling systems in the Middle East, including two for its Turbo Moving Bed Bio-Reactor. BioShaft said that the system requires about 50 percent less energy than conventional treatment facilities, and its underground installation requires less land use and also can operate under extreme temperatures.

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