e s f home link - e s f college of environmental science and forestry
e s f home link - e s f college of environmental science and forestry

Cleaning Toxins From Our Water

Special microbes at work in a constructed wetland

The video associated with this story has been removed. Contact web@esf.edu if you need further information.

Cutting edge technology that will provide a solution to a dangerous problem developing in America's ground and drinking water is being tested in a tiny Central New York village with the help of the State University of New York's College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

The problem is what to do about pharmaceuticals and carcinogens leeching into the nation's water after being flushed down the drain. These dangerous materials have to go somewhere and scientists say they are affecting the well being of humans and wildlife. Everyday pain relievers, even birth control pills, are causing mutations in frogs and are dangerous to other species, they say.

The technology that can solve the problem brought ESF faculty and ESF President Neil Murphy to a meeting with leaders of the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation and the Village of Minoa. Those attending toured the village's wastewater treatment plant on Wednesday, May 19.

Professors Christopher Nomura and David Johnson unveiled a three-piece plan they say will ultimately solve the dilemma of toxins in America's water, and provide energy at the same time. And, they say the solutions can be accomplished successfully in every municipal wastewater treatment plant, just as experiments are showing in Minoa.

Nomura explained how special microbes introduced into the treatment process have already successfully eliminated 32 percent of the ibuprofen and acetaminophen in Minoa's water. He predicts that a polymer-capturing device invented at ESF will further reduce pharmaceuticals and carcinogens to zero.

Add to this, research done by Johnson that will use algae and organic wastes to provide power for the treatment facilities, making them fully self-sufficient, or "sustainable." Johnson says leftover food from schools and other institutions can be used at the plants to make methane to fuel vehicles and electricity to run the plant. "My preliminary estimate is that 1500 pounds a day of food will produce 5,000 KwH of electricity per month," he said, noting the process will recover about 25 percent of electricity; eventually getting to the point of recovering all expenses for the plant.

The professors say the whole operation uses no power, making it enticing for any locale that needs a low cost energy source and a method of ensuring clean water, such as facilities operated by the military or located in Third World countries.

ESF has partnered on this project with a local engineering company, Antec, as well as the Village of Minoa.