Today I read this article California Considers Recycling Sewage Water about efforts in Southern California to recycle sewage water back into drinking water.
Now my first thought is: no matter how safe you make it you're going to have a very hard time selling such an idea to a city like Greensboro which has no shortage of drinking water and isn't expected to have any drinking water shortages any time soon. So no, I'll not be trying to sell you on the idea of drinking recycled waste water.
And while the article also talks about using recycled waste water for irrigation of parks and farms we haven't the need for that locally either.
But what we do have a never ending supply of is waste water and sewage sludge.
There's also a huge electric bill that goes towards the cost of treating that waste water and sewage sludge that anyone who uses Greensboro water and sewer must help to pay for. And pay we do.
Now what if I told you that waste water and sewage sludge could be used to produce free electricity to operate Greensboro's waste water treatment plants?
As it turns out, if you put sewage sludge in a sealed container and allow it to rot it will form bio-gases that include methane and other clean burning gases. And if you burn those gases to heat a boiler filled with water-- even recycled sewage water-- that water can be turned to steam to power turbines which in turn power electric generators that supply all or part of the electricity needed to power Greensboro's wastewater treatment plants.
Then that steam could be run through a condenser and allowed to cool before either being returned to our creeks or used for other things like raising fish, washing streets or whatever else you can think of.
But what about the sewage sludge? Once all the bio-gases are fully removed from the sewage sludge, the sludge is perfectly suitable as a growing medium for most any kind of plant you'd like to grow with the end result being lower cost to Greensboro's water and sewer users and more jobs for our east side communities.
This isn't new technology. Steam engines in various forms have been around for over 200 years. Using steam to produce electricity is over 100 years old. And collecting bio-gases from sewage sludge to burn has been going on in China and India for over 40 years. It's so simple people do it at home. They use the gas to cook, heat their homes and provide gas lighting. All I'm proposing is combining proven technologies.
And the smell? Because everything is inside pipes and sealed containers until the process is finished there are no odors for nearby communities to contend with.