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Sewage-eating algae used to treat wastewater in test project

Cal Poly launches pilot program in which algae feed on pollutants to clean wastewater

David Sneed
San Luis Obispo Tribune

Cal Poly and the city of San Luis Obispo on Monday unveiled a pilot project to test the viability of using algae to treat wastewater.

The project at San Luis Obispo’s sewage treatment plant on Prado Road has been under construction for the past year and a half. It consists of nine algae-rich ponds that circulate wastewater.

Transfer of property previously acquired for the construction of a wastewater treatment project along with easement interest in the district’s water yard to the county for construction of a generator facility to provide power to the county sewer project.  Fueled by sunlight, the algae feed on pollutants in the wastewater. This results in cleaner water and an increased volume of oil-rich algae that can be converted to products such as liquid biofuel or fertilizer, said Tryg Lundquist, Cal Poly professor in charge of the project.

The project is funded by a $250,000 grant from the California Energy Commission. Seven Cal Poly faculty members and more than two dozen students are using the project to conduct research on algae production, greenhouse gas reduction and the economics of converting the waste.

The city’s contribution to the project is allowing the use of about a half-acre of land at the treatment plant and supplying electricity to power the paddle wheels that circulate the water, as well as other equipment, said Howard Brewen, treatment plant manager.

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