News Briefs: Could Saltwater Power a Treatment Plant?

In this week's news, a research team investigates the power of saltwater, California wineries seek help with wastewater woes and California residents crack down on water wasters.
News Briefs: Could Saltwater Power a Treatment Plant?

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At the intersection of saltwater and freshwater could be a jackpot of power, says an MIT research team. Enough, the team claims, to potentially power the Deer Island Waste Water Treatment Plant in the Boston Harbor.

The team is investigating a method of power generation called pressure retarded osmosis (PRO), where two streams of different salinity are mixed to produce energy. According to a press release from MIT, a PRO system would take in river water and seawater on either side of a semi-permeable membrane. Through osmosis, water from the less salty stream would cross the membrane to a pre-pressurized saltier side, creating a flow that can be sent through a turbine to recover power.

Leonardo Banchik, an MIT graduate student, says a PRO system could potentially power a coastal wastewater treatment plant by taking in seawater and combining it with treated wastewater.

But to do so, the size of the membrane would be immense — at least 2.5 million square meters.

“Even though that seems like a lot, clever people are figuring out how to pack a lot of membrane into a small volume,” Banchick says.

Source: MIT press release

Wineries Ask for Wastewater Treatment Help

The Napa Sanitation District (Calif.) has agreed to assist several wineries in identifying affordable wastewater disposal solution. The sanitation district has set aside an additional $100,000 to begin studying ways to assist the industry.

Hundreds of wineries in the Napa Valley produce millions of gallons of wastewater, which typically must be pre-treated before going to a municipal wastewater treatment plant. Shipping the wastewater is a large cost for the businesses.

“I want our discussions to continue, but I want us to be cognizant of the fact that we are dealing with businesses that — for some — this is a pretty big surprise, cost and issue,” says Napa City Councilman Peter Mott in the Napa Valley Register. “There are a lot of ways to handle this issue, but we haven’t chosen to be a partner in the discussion and the industry hasn’t done it on their own. So I see a real partnership possibility here.”

Source: Napa Valley Register

Water Waster Crackdown Escalates

In California, where drought conditions have forced serious water restrictions, having a lush, green lawn is not exactly a good thing. And your neighbor will report you for it.

In fact, the East Bay Municipal Utility District says they’ve had a record number of water abuse complaints this summer. In January, the utility received about 20 water waste complaints. In August, that number rose to 419.

“Most of our water waste reports are coming from single-family homes where the report is that people have been overwatering their lawns,” says Jolene Bertetto, manager of EBMUD’s water abuse hotline.

Once Bertetto receives a call, she calls the alleged violators, then the EBMUD sends a letter, and if that doesn’t work, Bertetto visits the location. Violators who continue to use too much water are sent a final warning letter before water restrictions are put in place.

Source: ABC 7 News

15-Year-Old Honored For Water Purification Project

Deepika Kurup, a 15-year old student from Nashua N.H., was awarded the President’s Environmental Youth Award, which is given jointly by the EPA and the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Kurup developed a green and sustainable method to purify water. The winning project —a lightweight photocatalytic composite — harnesses solar energy for water purification. Kurup created a simple, fast and cost-effective methodology where a composite degrades organics in water and rapidly inactivates bacteria. As part of her project, Kurup also developed several prototypes for real-world applications. She has filed a patent and plans to send her invention worldwide to places affected by water pollution.

Source: EPA press release


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