Sustainability - Smarter, Cheaper, Greener - Misc. NZ
Sustainability - Smarter, Cheaper, Greener

Sustainability - Smarter, Cheaper, Greener

An award-winning wastewater system invented in Australia utilises innovative technology that both costs less and is more environmentally friendly than conventional sewage treatment systems.

Words by Biolytix

Most wastewater treatment systems are aquatic-based and generally rely on operator attendance or automatic monitoring systems to control aeration, sludge recycle and wasting rates. These systems are highly reliant on mechanical systems to guarantee effluent quality and are therefore prone to occasional poor quality effluent, particularly on-site treatment systems that normally do not have regular operator assistance.

Twelve years ago, inventor Dean Cameron set out to design a system that was far more reliable, efficient and cost-effective. The Biolytix Wastewater System was the result.

How it was invented

As an ecologist and environmental scientist, Dean looked to ecosystems for the answer. While other scientists were studying oxygen diffusion into wastewater in their laboratories, Dean was studying the breakdown of forest litter in rivers. He observed that the fastest breakdown did not occur in the water, as most engineers have assumed for well over a century, but was occurring on the waterline, where the organic matter was moist but surrounded by, air not water.

From these observations, he knew intuitively that the convectional sewage treatment that retains solid waste in the liquid phase, to be either artificially pumped with air, like serrated systems, or left to decompose anaerobically, like a septic system, was not based on optimal treatment conditions. Rather the waste should be removed as fast as possible from the water and stocked with worms, beetles and other soil invertebrates, not just mico-organisms. Organic matter should be allowed to break down rapidly and aerobically in a moist, organic, soil like environment, created by burrowing invertebrates vital to this natural ‘biolytic’ ecosystem.

So he designed the Biolytix ‘ecosystem in a tank’, which immediately separates the solids from the water using a structured humus bed. It has the patent to use the structured waste and resultant humus as the filter to cleanse the wastewater. This turns the problem (the waste) into the solution (the filter to cleanse the wastewater).

Advantages of the system

  • Simple and robust
  • Low energy use; the treatment process uses 0.140kWh/m3 – less than one-tenth of the energy needed to operate a conventional aerated treatment system
  • Low ongoing costs: typically, only an annual service is required
  • No odour: the filtration medium is humus, which is an excellent odour absorber
  • Resilient to household chemicals
  • Quiet operation: the system relies primarily on a passive aeration and has very few mechanical components
  • Easy to transport and install: it is the most compact biological system on the market

Large-scale potential

The simplicity and efficiency of the system also provides a breakthrough in how we can treat our sewage on a much larger scale for developments and towns, using Biowater. In fact, Dean Cameron believes, “Just as the powerful PC made large mainframe computers redundant, this system will make centralised sewerage a museum piece”.

Biowater is a neighbourhood network of Biolytix Systems. All wastewater from a dwelling gravitates to a single Biolytix System where it is treated at source, before transporting the safe liquid effluent into the reticulation network. The systems are connected by a shallow network of small-diameter pressurised pipes, not dissimilar to a pressure sewerage scheme, so any surplus treated effluent not used on the lot can automatically be transferred to irrigate public parks, sports fields, golf courses and road verges. This means that the water and nutrients that are normally a ‘problem’ for centralised sewerage become a valuable resource, creating green spaces for the community.

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