South Dakota School of Mines chemical environmental scientist Dr. Maryam Amouamouha may have South Dakota’s next big thing: a water filter that replaces septic systems!
Dr. Amouamouha has developed the Anaerobic Membrane Bioreactor with Electrolytic Regeneration (AMBER), a wastewater treatment system screens, zaps, and chemically treats wastewater to produce potable water, compost, and methane. The household version of the device is six feet by two feet by three feet—smaller than some freezers—and would be cheaper than the typical septic tank and lines we currently install in rural homes not connected to central sewer. The technology can scale up to clean process wastewater for neighborhoods, factories, and small towns.
Think about all the advantages this compact wastewater treatment system offers to rural South Dakota:
- Instead of flushing away our dwindling water resources after a single use, we can recycle water, thus lowering the burden on our strained water systems.
- Recycling water to expand water supply means South Dakota communities can support more population growth, more housing development, more irrigation capacity, and more industrial development. (Listing these developments as advantages assumes that we consider growth good and necessary.)
- We reduce pollution from old, leaky septic tanks and lines on the prairie and especially in the Black Hills, where the rocky soil has less filtration capacity than our loamy East River dirt.
- We get compost to use in our gardens and farm fields.
- We get methane to heat our homes, run our factories, and reduce our dependence on imported fuel.
- Rural housing lots won’t need room for a septic tank and the lines that snake out from it into the dirt that naturally filters our sewage, so developers will be able to subdivide all those big lots and make more room for more people to build more homes. (Again, this point assumes that having more people living more closely together in the country is a good thing.)
- More dense rural development means a stronger tax base and more efficient use of rural roads, electric lines, rural water connections, and other services. (Ah, yes, maybe more people living more closely together in the country really is a good thing!)
- This on-site wastewater system would be cheaper than building central sewer systems for rural housing developments, thus saving Lake Herman and other places dear to my heart the extravagant expense and engineering of building and maintaining a sprawling central sewer system.
- This technology preserves the bold individualism of my kin on Lake Herman and spares good patriots the socialist idignity of a centralized community sewer!
- Dr. Amouamouha is from Iran, so installing AMBERs in every rural South Dakotan home would give every South Dakotan a keen reminder of the value of immigrants to South Dakota’s prospects for economic development.
The Governor’s Office of Economic Development sees the shine in this s***-processor. GOED gave Dr. Amouamouha its top Giant Vision prize of $20,000 in April.But we can’t get the good doctor’s wastewater processors at Menards yet: she still needs to get regulatory approval before starting to manufacture the devices for sale perhaps later this year.