Bamboo May Be Useful In Treating Gray Water
By Sara Jerome
Bamboo is not just for pandas anymore. It may be useful to the water industry.
According to research funded by the European Commission, bamboo is effective in phytoremediating water. Phytoremediation processes use natural materials to eat up pollutants, making them distinct from processes that capture contaminants and dispose of them elsewhere.
The study examined gray water in particular. Gray water is wastewater that does not contain toxic chemicals or sewage. For more from Water Online about gray water, click here.
"Our overall objective is to validate the performance of intensified bamboo-based phytoremediation for dairy and other food industry gray water applications," the researchers said in a description of their study.
The project's scientific manager is Frédéric Panfili of France's Phytorem, a company that specializes in wastewater treatment and soil remediation using plants. The system used in the study looks like a bamboo plantation, easily blending in with the surrounding landscape, he said in Nanowerk.
The study focused on gray water from the food industry. The project consisted of building a full-scale wastewater treatment pilot plant for the soft drink company Délifruits in France.
"The system is in fact a vegetation filter. In this kind of treatment, the wastewater is sent through the soil of a plantation. In our case, we used sandy filtration materials in place of soil, but the principle is the same - wastewater passes through the soil or the filtration media, where naturally occurring micro-organisms degrade the organic matter," Panfili said.
Why bamboo? Because it has a dense root system, grows quickly, is sturdy and resists environmental stresses. It also has a high heating value, "so the biomass produced during wastewater treatment can be used locally as a boiler fuel, to heat administrative buildings or schools, for example," Panfili said.
So, did it work?
The researchers said yes, and Phytorem is already marketing a bamboo-based filter called The Bambou-Assainissement. Meanwhile, "four other bamboo treatment plants have been built since the project was completed," Nanowerk said.
Phytoremediation of gray water is not a new notion. Researchers have also examined if marsh plants could be used.
"A marsh ecosystem is an outstanding water treatment system. Marsh plants are incredible plants, capable of recycling waste water or gray water," DecodedScience reported this year.
On ResearchGate, a social media site for scientists, a question was posed on a forum about which plants could be useful in gray water remediation. Researchers responded with a wide variety of ideas, from reeds to drumstick trees.
Image credit: "Bamboo," © 2008 The Pug Father, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/