Kickuth Engineered Wetland systems have been installed to treat many different types of municipal and industrial wastewaters.

From the Ground Up by Nathaniel Noel

Natural Treatment of Waste Water, A Cutting Edge Alternative

A few months ago I noticed a brief article in the Shoreline which referred to CBS being used as a "guinea pig" for Abydoz's new (natural based) wastewater treatment program. Having lived through the frustration and "agony" of septic tank blockage I was compelled to dig further to find out what the process entailed. I spoke to Rod Vatcher of Lawrence Pond, Upper Gullies, vice-president of Abydoz Enviromental Inc. about the company, the technology, and their plans for the future.

How it Works

Household sewage, industrial effluent, agricultural effluent etc. are all forms of polluted wastewater. According to Vatcher, Abydoz's Kickuth process makes polluted wastewater safe to be re-introduced into the environment. Currently, in many Newfoundland communities raw sewage from town services is either dumped directly into the ocean or is run through a mechanical separator (treatment plant) to remove the solid waste portion and then dumped into the ocean. All too often we hear how St. John's harbor is paved with gold (undigested corn kernels).

"Abydoz uses a patented process involving a Kickuth Bioreactor (named after its inventor and developer) and is based on 30 years of intense research" says Vatcher. "The reactor uses a combination of carefully chosen plants and naturally occurring soil processes to treat wastewater. These systems, which have been used to treat everything from industrial effluent to Glycol (antifreeze) are very popular in Europe and Scandinavia and it is Abydoz's intention to introduce the technology to North America".

While each system is tailored to the expected demand that will be placed on it Vatcher stresses that an allowance is always made for additional loads. This, according to Vatcher ensures that the system will not be overtaxed. "A system can be tailored to handle the wastewater of one household or an entire housing development." In addition, the specific plants used in a particular system are chosen based on their ability to handle a particular type of wastewater.

Before speaking with Vatcher I envisaged huge tracts of land being required for such systems. "Not so" says Vatcher. "In Germany, a Kickuth system using a area of approximately 240 square meters (the area of a large bungalow) is processing the waste generated by 160 people. Another system, with an area of 900 square meters (the size of a average building lot) is handling the wastewater from 135 homes. In Whyalla Australia a ten acre site digests the industrial effluent of an entire steel mill". Vatcher adds, "because our consumption of water is, on average, greater than in Europe, the systems designed for Canada are proportionately larger however in Canada space is generally not a problem".

Each system is sealed from the water table and surrounding area by a PVC liner to insure that the untreated wastewater passes through and is therefore processed by the system. Solids are collected in a settling tank and removed for drying and processing to be used for landfill in the case of industrial waste or agricultural fertilizer in the case of domestic waste.

Besides the fact that this type of technology reduces pollution and therefore benefits everyone, there are also advantages for the individual homeowner. It virtually eliminates the need for a distribution field (a necessary component of a standard septic system) and the effluent from a Kickuth system is safe enough to be introduced directly into the environment and will not contaminate a nearby well, pond or stream. These systems are also suitable for areas with poor drainage or little soil cover. (What, poor drainage, no Newfoundland?) From a municipal standpoint larger systems would reduce the need for current mechanical treatment plants which according to Vatcher are very expensive to operate in the case of systems designed to purify water, and require considerable maintenance.

According to Vatcher a properly functioning system does not create an odor in the summer and because it generates its own heat, will not freeze up in the winter. Visually, on the surface, it would have the appearance of field of tall grass or reeds.

There is no question that this type of technology is the way of the future. While it may be a little late to set up this kind of a system in downtown St. John's new areas of development planned for the more rural areas such as CBS may wish to utilize this kind of waste treatment system and therefore account for it in their planning. In addition to being an attractive alternative financially, the environmental benefits are overwhelming.

Vatcher feels that the term "guinea pig" used in the previous article is not really appropriate. "This technology has proven to be "state of the art" in Germany and in other parts of Europe. In fact, because of its success the Kickuth organization has been invited to display the technology at the world Expo 2000 in Hanover".

Currently, Marystown, Conception Bay South, and Bay Bulls are contemplating contracting Abydoz to construct systems on a trial basis. With the new millennium approaching I find it comforting to know that communities such as ours are recognizing the need to act in a progressive and responsible fashion when it comes to the environment.

This article originally appeared in the Shoreline News.