Bill Gates checks out mini sewage treatment plant
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has visited a mini sewage treatment system project ahead of a pilot scheme planned in Dakar, Senegal later this year. The Omni-Processor, designed and built by Seattle company Janicki Bioenergy under the umbrella of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, burns and treats human waste to produce both drinking water, electricity and ash, and could improve sanitation in poor countries.
The technology involves boiling sewer sludge to separate water vapour from the solids. This water vapour is cleaned to produce drinking water. The dry sludge is fed into a furnace where high-pressure steam is produced to drive a generator to power the processor, with the excess delivered back to the community.
In a blog about his visit, Gates said: "The Omni-Processor is a safe repository for human waste. Today, in many places without modern sewage systems, truckers take the waste from latrines and dump it into the nearest river or the ocean - or at a treatment facility that doesn’t actually treat the sewage. Either way, it often ends up in the water supply.
"If they took it to the Omni-Processor instead, it would be burned safely. The machine runs at such a high temperature (1,000 deg C) that there’s no nasty smell; in fact it meets all the emissions standards set by the US government."
The system uses a steam engine to produce more than enough energy to burn the next batch of waste. He added that the next-generation processor, "more advanced than the one I saw, will handle waste from 100,000 people, producing up to 86,000 litres of potable water a day and a net 250kw of electricity".
Sampling the water produced by the system, Gates said: "The water tasted as good as any I’ve had out of a bottle. And having studied the engineering behind it, I would happily drink it every day. It’s that safe."
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