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Biogas Reactors for the Home

05.18.2015

Domestic Biogas Reactors
Image credit: "Biogas reactor construction Lesotho)," © 2008 SuSanA Secretariat, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Biogas reactors are a common waste solution in homes in other parts of the world, but the systems are rare in the U.S.

That must change, according to environmental journalist Victoria Alexander. In a recent commentary in Digital Journal, she urged households to consider biogas reactors as an alternative to conventional septic systems.

Used throughout China and India, biogas reactors "turn human waste into energy, conserve water, and stop fresh water pollution," Alexander wrote. Yet in an era of drought, water scarcity, and energy pressures, she tracked down only one permitted home biogas reactor in all of New York State.

"Designed to replace conventional septic systems, home biogas reactors are small on-site waste systems that use a process called anaerobic digestion to turn waste into methane gas and fertilizer. Reactors are simple and, properly installed, they are safe, clean and do not emit odors. These systems completely rethink how we deal with our waste and use our fresh water," the commentary said.

Home biogas reactors could help conserve water in drought-plagued regions by cutting down on the need for water during the sewage disposal, according to the commentary.

"While California and Texas are drying up, residents of these states continue to use 1.25 gallons of fresh drinking water to flush their poop away. Regulations requiring low-flow toilets don't help enough because toilet design is not really the problem. The problem is with our approach to wastewater treatment in general," the commentary said.

In other parts of the world, home biogas reactors are already being used. For instance, "some 108 families in Central Java [recently installed the technology]," according to Tempo. The Dutch NGO Hivos managed the project.

In the U.S., the systems are rarely used in homes. "There are currently over 1,000 off-site anaerobic digestion systems in the U.S. based at centralized treatment facilities. The technology is improving and more and more systems are added every year, but here these systems require expensive de-watering due to the practice of source combining," Alexander's commentary said.

There are barriers to installing these systems in U.S. homes. "Unfortunately, household digesters are not approved for human waste disposal, even though the conventional septic system is, arguably, a much greater health hazard. Septic tanks often fail if not maintained regularly; they can leach effluent and sometimes raw sewage into groundwater," she wrote.

She urged consumers to consider this approach to waste management, and potentially even flout the rules on the path to water conservation. "Do your homework first. Learn all about the necessary safety precautions and get an wastewater expert to give you help and advice. I’m going to get into some trouble for saying this, but I think some things are too important to wait for government to do the right thing on its own," the report said.

The author suggested homeowners read this book, Source Separation and Decentralization for Wastewater Management, to learn the right precautions to take.

Article cited from: http://goo.gl/Hi5gZW