March 2013, Vol. 25, No.3


Coconut fibers may provide the key to cleaning wastewater in developing countries

A system that uses cocopeat, a waste product from the coconut processing industry, could improve wastewater treatment in countries with limited resources, according to an RTI International (Research Triangle Park, N.C.) news release. With funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (Seattle) Grand Challenges Explorations initiative, researchers developed and tested a secondary wastewater treatment system that uses cocopeat.

Researchers found that adding cocopeat in a filter used to treat both domestic and commercial wastewater reduces organic matter and suspended solids in the effluent, the news release says.

RTI collaborated with Can Tho University (Vietnam), Institut Teknologi Bandung (Indonesia), Duke University (Durham, N.C.), and Muntinlupa City, Philippines, to test various aspects of the technology. The researchers experimented with a variety of mixes of commercially available cocopeat and fiber particles to determine the best mix for long-term functionality, the news release says.

Cocopeat trials were conducted at two public schools in Muntinlupa City. Water discharged from the system showed less organic matter, solids, and pathogenic bacteria than effluent from constructed wetlands and lagoons, the news release says. Bacteria removal approached 90% in the cocopeat system. The system is designed to be low-cost, easily assembled, inexpensive to operate, and more compact than similar technologies, the news release says.

RTI has applied for Phase 2 of the project, which will begin commercialization of the technology by developing modular units that can be deployed quickly in urban settings, the news release says.


Looking at flooding from all angles

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists have new technology at their disposal to help detail and assess damage caused by hurricanes.

Terrestrial lidar, or T-lidar, technology generates 3-D maps from millions of topographic data points. After a 4- to 5-minute scan, the portable instrument takes a 360-degree view of a landscape to capture vertical details, such as water levels, and determine the extent of flooding. The maps show buildings, dams, levees, and other structures and can show areas of storm damage up to 1.08 km (0.67 mi) away, according to a USGS news release.

Lidar — which stands for “light detection and ranging” — uses light to produce 3-D images. The T-lidar terrestrial laser scanning system has a sensor that emits laser pulses and measures distance by how long it takes the reflected laser beam to return to the system, the news release says.

“The ability to rapidly preserve for posterity, a quantifiable, three-dimension representation of storm damage is going to open the doors for new flood hazard science,” said USGS Director Marcia McNutt, in the news release.

The scientists are conducting a pilot project using the technology to look at the effects of Hurricane Isaac through a high-resolution, interactive 3-D flood inundation map, the news release says.