‘Energy coming out of our butts’: Alberta firms convert human waste into biofuel

CALGARY — A new pilot program in a community east of Calgary aims to revolutionize the way humans treat raw sewage by transforming it into raw water, fertilizer and biofuel.

Through a partnership with the City of Chestermere, MAGNA Engineering and Eco-Growth Environmental Inc. are using engineered wetlands and dehydration technology to treat sewage.

Representatives say those methods of dealing with human waste have been in practice in small communities in Europe since the 1920s but haven’t been widely adopted in North America.

The hope is to shift away from the conventional processes of treating raw sewage and adopt new ones that result in a lot of beneficial materials communities can use.

While Chestermere used to transport their sewage for treatment, the new system allows them to complete the work right inside the city’s public works building.

First, the liquids and solids are separated through a micro-screening process. The liquid component is then sent through a series of sub-surface wetlands that treat the waste, turning it into raw water that can be safely released into the environment or used for irrigation, process water or other purposes.

The solid waste is sent through Eco-Growth’s equipment that removes all moisture, kills pathogens and reduces odour. After that, the bio solids are then loaded into the Eco-Boiler and burned at temperatures of more than 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once the bio solids have been turned into ash, they can then be used as fertilizer or as a component in road-building material.

“We all have energy coming out of our butts,” said Glen Smith, vice president and director of Eco-Growth Environmental in a release.

“Our vision is to put that to use. Our innovative technology transforms raw, organic waste into biofuel so communities can get the most out of their waste.”

Chestermere’s system was installed earlier this summer and is set to be fully operational on Sept. 10. Officials say water samples will be tested regularly to ensure the system is efficient and effective.

“Municipalities across Alberta are searching for a better wastewater treatment solution that keeps operation simple but results in high quality treated water,” said Jennifer Massig, owner of MAGNA Engineering in a release.

“Better treatment means that our rivers and lakes stay cleaner, which keeps our communities safe.”

Chestermere officials add they are happy with the partnership that will help handle waste and support local businesses.

“We are hopeful that upon a successful pilot, we can help set new standards for environmental stewardship in municipalities across Canada,” said Chestermere’s mayor Marshall Chalmers.

The pilot is expected to operate until at least Dec. 2020, at which time the system will be reviewed and refined to be modified for larger-scale projects.

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