U.S. Border Crossing to Become Wastewater-Recycling Living Machine


Enter the United States at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry on the Mexican border, and you'll never know just by looking around that you're walking through a "living machine" wastewater recycling system. But when installation is complete, a custom-designed system will treat and recycle wastewater on site, reducing "generation of wastewater and demand for potable water, while increasing the local aquifer recharge," according to the company that designed the system, Worrell Water Technologies.

A press release by the company announces that the U.S. General Services Administration selected Worrell to design the system for the border crossing. A lush green landscape is expected to be the only visible part of the Living Machine system, which will be nourished by wastewater flowing below the surface "in watertight cells and pore spaces between rock particles so there is no smell, mosquitoes, or human exposure. The purified water will be re-used for on-site irrigation in this low precipitation area."

Here's more about how the system will work, from Worrell:

The Living Machine® system will take grey and black water from the facility and purify the water through its advanced wetland system, composed of three different wetland processes treating up to 1,500 gallons of wastewater per day...

The Living Machine® system adapts and enhances the ecological processes in a tidal wetland, Nature's most productive ecosystem. The alternating anaerobic (without oxygen) and aerobic (with oxygen) cycles help make the Living Machine® technology the most advanced ecological treatment system available. The Living Machine® system cleanses high-strength (blackwater) sewage within a small footprint and in an energy efficient, safe, attractive and cost-effective manner.

The Living Machine system introduces the water to a dense, diverse micro-ecosystem contained in a series of cells. The cells fill with water allowing microorganisms to begin consuming the nutrients. When the cells drain by gravity, oxygen is passively brought to the wastewater at atmospheric levels. This allows microorganisms that favor these conditions to complete the nutrient consumption process. The Living Machine® system adapts and enhances Nature's own productivity.

This isn't the first system of its kind, but it will probably put Otay Mesa in the running for the country's greenest border crossing. Fortunately, however, even that category has competition.

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