Igloo-Shaped 'Poo-Gloos' Are Cheap Solution to Wastewater

half-submerged bio domes
Wellsville UT half submerged bio domes.

Migrated Image / WastewaterComplianceSystems.com

Poo-gloos is the, um, affectionate nickname given to Bio-Domes, the igloo-shaped pollution-eating devices that could mean miracles for wastewater treatment in areas that can't afford multimillion-dollar installations. They're cheap, easy to install, and a new study shows that for areas with existing lagoon systems to clean up, retrofitting with poo-gloos could mean saving millions of dollars. Wastewater lagoons are a common method for dealing with sewage in rural areas because they're cheap and easy to build and operate. The lagoons leave it up to nature to treat and clean the water, using the help of sun, bacteria and so on. However, when a community needs to upgrade their wastewater treatment to handle more people or tighter regulations, it usually means building expensive facilities. The poo-gloo provides an alternative.

Kraig Johnson, CTO at Wastewater Compliance Systems Inc, and his team came up with the Bio-Dome, which provides an ideal environment for bacteria and microbes to grow and consume wastewater pollutants, according to a press release. Each poo-gloo is a series of four plastic domes nesting inside each other, and filled with plastic packing to add surface area for bacteria to grow. Air holes circulate air to promote growth, and each dome only needs as much electricity to function as a 75-watt bulb. The system speeds up the treatment of the wastewater in the lagoon -- making it function as quickly as mechanical plants -- without the need for pricey equipment, and the low energy requirement means it could be powered by an adjacent solar array.

Interior design of bio-dome
 Migrated Image / WastewaterComplianceSystems.com

The poo-gloos have been successful in a pilot project in Salt Lake City, and they've been deployed in six states on projects of various sizes. So far, every installation has helped the lagoon meet pollution-control requirements. Highlights from the recent study which will be presented on Thursday, January 13th, include:

* Biological oxygen demand - a measure of organic waste in water - was reduced consistently by 85 percent using Poo-Gloos, and by as much as 92 percent.
* Total suspended solids fell consistently by 85 percent, and by as much as 95 percent.
* Ammonia levels dropped more than 98 percent with Poo-Gloo treatment in warmer water and, more important, by as much as 93 percent when temperatures dropped below 50 degrees Fahrenheit - conditions that normally slow bacterial breakdown of sewage.
* Total nitrogen levels fell 68 percent in warmer water and 55 percent in cooler water.

These numbers are impressive, and for low energy, low cost, effective wastewater treatment, the poo-gloos could prove to be a perfect solution. It's especially exciting to know that an installation of these bio-domes could be powered by solar power -- it would add to the upfront costs for the facility, but over the long term would drop the cost of wastewater treatment even more.

As far as the name goes, Wastewater Compliance Systems Inc has this to say:

When Dr. Kraig Johnson began developing the poo-gloos, his primary objective was to develop a device for small municipal wastewater treatment systems, and because the device had a shape very similar to an igloo, Kraig and his research team started calling them poo-gloos. We still commonly refer to them as poo-gloos when dealing with municipal clients, but the name isn't very applicable to the aquaculture, impaired waters, and most industrial projects. In an effort to create a single product name that could be used in all markets we changed the name to "bio-dome" which isn't quite as fun, but it's much more versatile.