The WASTE project, coordinated by Dr. Jeffrey Greenberg (Geology) and Mac Airhart (a Wheaton trustee and construction entrepreneur), currently consists of a team of twelve Wheaton College students with the help of Wheaton faculty members from four departments.
Wheaton College students, guided by faculty expertise, have been conducting research on campus since the spring of 2012. The current WASTE system is a model for a waste stabilization pond that utilizes algae and gravity to treat wastewater, cutting the cost and associated maintenance of more technological systems. Student researchers have focused primarily on testing the effectiveness of the system at reducing biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), an indirect measurement of the amount of organic “waste” present in the water.
Students have quantified a significant BOD reduction of 87% from influent to effluent so research is now being conducted to test the system’s effectiveness in varying climates by manipulating light intensity, temperature, and retention time.
There is already interest from organizations in Kosovo, Brazil, and Haiti as candidates for systems.
Vision for the Future
The WASTE team has developed a relationship with Ave Maria University in southwest Florida which the team plans to partner in constructing and running a pilot system on an experimental farm at Ave Maria’s campus—a climate similar to that of the global south.
This larger-scale pilot system will allow further research to be conducted with the potential of using the system’s effluent for irrigation and/or aquaculture.