Mr. Trash Wheel Cleaning Up Rivers
Rivers dump approximately eight million metric tons of plastic into the world’s oceans each year. It’s killing entire ecosystems, including many endangered species.
Since one percent of the rivers around the world dump eighty percent of the plastic into our oceans, it makes sense to target the problem before the plastics and other garbage reach the ocean. While researchers and activists insist that preventing plastic pollution is the top priority, cleanup measures are part of the solution.
After watching garbage flow down a local river for years and after volunteering to cleanup the river, a Baltimore man jumped into action. John Kellett drew up some plans for a machine powered by a water wheel. He designed it to intercept trash at the mouth of Jones Falls, which is the main source of harbor pollution. He installed a prototype in 2008 and it was a success. By 2014, the technology was rebranded as Mr. Trash Wheel—a floating miracle that resembles a miniature riverboat.
Mr. Trash Wheel is a simple trash interceptor that is placed at the end of a river, stream or other outfall. It employs both solar and hydropower to pull hundreds of tons of trash out of the water each year. It’s an idea that demands replication in key rivers around the world.
Using containment booms, trash flowing down the river is funneled into Mr. Trash Wheel’s collection system. Two booms reach outward and under the surface of the water to capture trash. The booms funnel the garbage onto a conveyor belt that feeds a large dumpster. Once the dumpster fills, it is towed away and replaced. Ideally, the plastic gets recycled, but current sorting technologies are unable to separate the plastics from other trash. For now, the city incinerates the trash to create electricity.
“I don’t think of the Trash Wheel as a solution,” said John Kellett, inventor of Mr. Trash Wheel. “We are treating a symptom of the disease. It’s not a cure.”
Mr. Trash Wheel has spawned replicas around Baltimore—Professor Trash Wheel, Captain Trash Wheel, and Gwynnda the Good Wheel of the West. Similar models also are planned for Newport Beach, California and Managua, Nicaragua.
Professor Trash Wheel has been cleaning up Harris Creek since December 2016. Captain Trash Wheel has been cleaning up Masonville Cove since June 2018 and Gwynnda the Good Wheel of the West, the largest system so far, has been working hard at Gwynns Falls since June 2021.
Trasharella is coming soon to Newport Beach, California and Dona Rueda is scheduled to be the first venture into international waters—in Panama.
So far, the Mr. Trash family has collected 2,004 tons of trash. The most Mr. Trash Wheel has ever collected in a single day is 38,000 lbs. On a sunny day, the solar panels can produce 2,500 watts of electricity—enough to power a typical Maryland home.
Mr. Trash was invented and constructed by Clearwater Mills, LLC. It is owned and maintained by Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore and funded by Maryland Port Administration and Constellation. Additional funding provided by Brown Advisory, The Abell Foundation, and Marriott Hotels.
Consider approaching several issues at once. A major source of antibiotic resistant pathogens stems from wastewater treatment plant discharge. This is also one of the major sources of released plastics. As noted in the attached, discharge of wastewater to create artificial wetlands is likely also a source of COVID spread.This may be of some interest since you work with aquatic plants and aquatic environments. It looks like the virus can set up shop within bacteria which then act as Trojan horses.
Re the following questions:
Is there a release of SARS-CoV-2 from discharged wastewater as used to augment artificial wildlife wetlands? If so, is that virus then picked up by wildlife in sufficient numbers to become a public health risk? What level of wastewater treatment must be obtained to assure public health safety when dealing with the released virus? Considering the above, does wastewater, as used in augmentation of artificial wetlands, represent a public health risk? Does the virus replicate within bacteria found in fecal material? Since tertiary treated wastewater does not eliminate bacteria and other pathogens, is the virus able to use bacteria as a Trojan horse (see Brogna below). If it does get into wildlife is there an opportunity for the virus to reassort?
We are aware that the wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) are now being used to track the virus underlying COVID-19. Wastewater is categorized into 4 increasingly stringent types of treatment: primary (solid removal), secondary (bacterial decomposition), tertiary (extra filtration) and advanced or quaternary. Different WWTPs, depending on desired level of treatment, will be designed for that level of treatment, typically meeting the minimum necessary requirements. Generally, as the level of treatment increases so does the cost of operation.
Costs are typically quoted as output in million’s of gallons per day (mgd) or in acre feet (ac ft) of water. There are roughly 3 ac ft per mgd. An acre foot is 325851 gallons. In 2016, (8 years ago), California noted that the typical water district was spending over $850 per ac ft to treat and dispose of wastewater while potential buyers were eagerly paying nearly $1,000 per acre-foot whenever scarce opportunities to purchase water appeared. In the interim, the drought in California has worsened and prices have escalated. Los Angeles, as an example, notes that a regional recycled water program could produce up to 150 million gallons a day — enough water to supply 500,000 homes. Water was estimated to cost about $1,800 an ac ft but has been shown to range up to around $2500/ac ft.. The system is not cheap. Estimates of cost to build this Los Angeles plant come in as at least $3.4 billion.
Part of the treatment cost relates to the pore size used in the filters, hence what particle size may get through within the released effluent.
If we are talking about artificial wetlands and not converting recycled wastewater to drinking quality, realistically how many pathogens can we let through in the finished water? Here we need to start bringing into the discussion various public health questions. As shown by Harwood below, typical tertiary plants are allowing considerable through-puts including bacteria and viruses (PMID:15933017).
Do we know how well the SARS-CoV-2 will survive?
Dr Amy Pruden of Virginia Tech has published a considerable volume of literature in this general area. She shows that even at the tertiary level, drug resistant bacterial genes are getting through. Since these genetic materials can pass through the pilus, this brings the necessary pore size to below 2 nm. Meeting that size range assumes a high degree of treatment which translates into a high cost. Harwood, et al note the following based on their analysis of 6 WWTPs across the nation: Microorganisms were detected in disinfected effluent samples at the following frequencies: total coliforms, 63%; fecal coliforms, 27%; enterococci, 27%; C. perfringens, 61%; F-specific coliphages, approximately 40%; and enteric viruses, 31%.
This noting of viruses brings our discussion now to include SARS-CoV-2. The virus ranges around 100 nm and enteric viruses range around 30 to 85, thus SARS-CoV-2 is a bit bigger than the average enteric. As seen from Harwood, considerable number of fecal colifom also get through these treatment plants.
Thus, does this information reflect an increased public health risk and if so, how might it be addressed? If this is an increased risk, what is needed to curb the potential for SARS-CoV-2 to transmit?
Biofilms must be considered as mechanisms that reduce access of disinfectants. Thus, there are issues with the release of wastewater which should be considered not only for the virus supporting COVID-19, but the public health aspects of released wastewater. Particulate matter that includes lipids may also shield viruses from contact with disinfectants. As seen in the work of David Lewis, lipids are involved in the sheltering of pathogens from disinfectants https://doi.org/10.1038/nm0995-956,
Does the released effluent for the maintenance of artificial wetlands, as used to help sustain wildlife pose a public health risk. Does the treatment of this water reach sufficient levels of disinfection to assure destruction of SARS-CoV-2? This is important because we know that some forms of wildlife migrate and are also known for carrying pathogens. To the extent that these are viruses (they also carry other non-viral diseases) is there any tendency to reassert and if so has this mix been considered, and by whom?
A critical question with respect to the above noted “whom,” is there regulatory capture involved? If so, can the data supplied by that source be relied upon?
The use of wastewater to augment wildlife may see promotion and at the same time an increased extraction of existing freshwater shunted to increased use for human needs. This may be based on the following: “After all, this water need for wildlife need not be brought to the same level of treatment for humans.” Such an argument, however, ignores the underlying externalities and accompanying potential public health costs of loosened pathogens.
Tertiary-Treated Municipal Wastewater is a Significant Point Source of Antibiotic Resistance Genes into Duluth-Superior Harbor
Timothy M. LaPara*†
In this study, the impact of tertiary-treated municipal wastewater on the quantity of several antibiotic resistance determinants in Duluth-Superior Harbor was investigated by collecting surface water and sediment samples from 13 locations in Duluth-Superior Harbor, the St. Louis River, and Lake Superior. Quantitative PCR (qPCR) was used to target three different genes encoding resistance to tetracycline (tet(A), tet(X), and tet(W)), the gene encoding the integrase of class 1 integrons (intI1), and total bacterial abundance (16S rRNA genes) as well as total and human fecal contamination levels (16S rRNA genes specific to the genus Bacteroides). The quantities of tet(A), tet(X), tet(W), intI1, total Bacteroides, and human-specific Bacteroides were typically 20-fold higher in the tertiary-treated wastewater than in nearby surface water samples. In contrast, the quantities of these genes in the St. Louis River and Lake Superior were typically below detection. Analysis of sequences of tet(W) gene fragments from four different samples collected throughout the study site supported the conclusion that tertiary-treated municipal wastewater is a point source of resistance genes into Duluth-Superior Harbor. This study demonstrates that the discharge of exceptionally treated municipal wastewater can have a statistically significant effect on the quantities of antibiotic resistance genes in otherwise pristine surface waters.
Increase of SARS-CoV—2 RNA load in fecal samples prompts for thinking of SARS-CoV-2 biology and COVID-19 epidemiology. from Long Covid Conference, Ap 30, 2022 Dr Carlo Brogna.
Validity of the indicator organism paradigm for pathogen reduction in reclaimed water and public health protection
Valerie J Harwood 1, Audrey D Levine, Troy M Scott, Vasanta Chivukula, Jerzy Lukasik, Samuel R Farrah, Joan B Rose
Free PMC article
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The validity of using indicator organisms (total and fecal coliforms, enterococci, Clostridium perfringens, and F-specific coliphages) to predict the presence or absence of pathogens (infectious enteric viruses, Cryptosporidium, and Giardia) was tested at six wastewater reclamation facilities. Multiple samplings conducted at each facility over a 1-year period. Larger sample volumes for indicators (0.2 to 0.4 liters) and pathogens (30 to 100 liters) resulted in more sensitive detection limits than are typical of routine monitoring. Microorganisms were detected in disinfected effluent samples at the following frequencies: total coliforms, 63%; fecal coliforms, 27%; enterococci, 27%; C. perfringens, 61%; F-specific coliphages, approximately 40%; and enteric viruses, 31%. Cryptosporidium oocysts and Giardia cysts were detected in 70% and 80%, respectively, of reclaimed water samples. Viable Cryptosporidium, based on cell culture infectivity assays, was detected in 20% of the reclaimed water samples. No strong correlation was found for any indicator-pathogen combination. When data for all indicators were tested using discriminant analysis, the presence/absence patterns for Giardia cysts, Cryptosporidium oocysts, infectious Cryptosporidium, and infectious enteric viruses were predicted for over 71% of disinfected effluents. The failure of measurements of single indicator organism to correlate with pathogens suggests that public health is not adequately protected by simple monitoring schemes based on detection of a single indicator, particularly at the detection limits routinely employed. Monitoring a suite of indicator organisms in reclaimed effluent is more likely to be predictive of the presence of certain pathogens, and a need for additional pathogen monitoring in reclaimed water in order to protect public health is suggested by this study.