BRATTLEBORO—Brightwater Tools, which began in 2019 as a spin-off of the nonprofit Rich Earth Institute, received a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation’s Small Business Innovation Research Program ( NSF) Phase II.
According to a press release, Brightwater Tools “develops systems that can convert a building’s wastewater into fertilizer and clean water to save money, protect water resources and support local farms. Over the next two years, the team will build, test, and install at least three units of a new, building-scale, heavy-duty wastewater treatment system. »
“The toilets of the future won’t be much different from those of today, but the way we handle what we throw at them will change dramatically,” said Kim Nace, CEO of Brightwater Tools.
In the conventional paradigm, toilet streams are combined with all other domestic wastewater from showers, sinks, and washing machines, as well as industrial manufacturing waste. Wastewater treatment systems then remove pathogens, but often release both nutrients and contaminants into the watershed, with detrimental ecological ramifications.
Rather than combining all of that water into one dilute stream, Brightwater says its technologies “reverse the paradigm by separating and recycling the biggest source of nutrients in wastewater: toilet ‘resources’.”
Brightwater says their treatment process turns what would otherwise be a source of water pollution into a renewable source of fertilizer.
“Producing clean, locally produced fertilizer (recovering nutrients from wastewater) for use in agriculture is a crucial response to the extreme volatility in fertilizer prices that has resulted from factors such as the Russian- Ukrainian,” they said.
The Brightwater system also conserves valuable water supplies and facilitates on-site reuse of gray water. The system is very energy efficient and reduces greenhouse gas emissions produced by wastewater treatment and fertilizer production.
“Decentralized or distributed sanitation systems will be the climate-resilient infrastructure of tomorrow,” said Abraham Noe-Hays, technical and research director at Brightwater. “Our company is ready to provide the necessary tools that will transform the way we manage what was once considered waste and turn it into a resource. We complete the nutrient cycle.
Source-separated bathroom fixtures (waterless urinals, urine-diverting toilets, and flush toilets) will direct waste through dedicated plumbing to a compact building-scale processor, which will convert to liquid fertilizer. The system uses the new technologies needed to stabilize, concentrate, sanitize and filter high-strength wastewater. It will be deployed in multi-storey buildings in urban and rural settings.
The non-profit Rich Earth Institute conducts research, education, and demonstrations on urinary nutrient cycling, largely focused on community- and home-scale implementation. Brightwater Tools will extend this work to larger scale systems.
“This innovative project has attracted a very talented team of young engineers and scientists to Vermont,” notes Nace.
To develop and commercialize specific components of the system, Brightwater Tools is seeking additional investments that will secure a 50% match from NSF of up to $500,000. For more information, contact [email protected]