Afton inventor designs a self-contained home sewage treatment system
Every time Clint and Bobbi Elston flush a toilet or turn on their tap, they make history.
Clint Elston has designed what he believes is the world’s first self-contained sewage treatment system in the lower level of the couple’s Afton home.
The new three-part system, the Elston’s say, eventually could eliminate the need for piped water and sewer and drilled wells and septic systems. It reuses all dish, shower, sink and laundry water, recycling it into drinking water.
But the most interesting feature: it collects food scraps and toilet “matter” in a large tank where thousands of small red worms live. The worms eat the waste, and out comes soil.
“We literally make s*** disappear,” Clint Elston said. “It’s all Mother Nature. We really haven’t done anything; we’ve just automated Mother Nature.”
Elston named his composter the Bio-Matter Resequencing Converter after hearing the term on a “Star Trek” episode. Two agitators – picture a huge Cuisinart set on its lowest level – spin the waste and worms five to 20 minutes each day. “I came up with the idea after looking at manure spreaders,” Elston said.
The Elston’s remove about 10 gallons of soil from the tank each year and use it as compost around their ornamental shrubs. “The secret is, you’ve got to get the human waste and all the organic waste out of the wastewater,” he said.
Once that’s done, Elston said, you can recycle all the “gray water,” the dirty water that drains from your sink, bathtub, washing machine and dishwasher.
Elston’s gray water-treatment system involves three huge cone-shaped water tanks where the water then goes through an extensive filtering process involving ozone, micron filters and reverse osmosis before it is stored in a large pressure tank.
A computer system continually tests the water and alerts the Elston’s to any problems. They can also monitor the system on the Internet, he said.
The finished product is purer than bottled water, Bobbi Elston said. “You don’t have to worry about 3M chemicals,” she said, referring to recent groundwater-contamination problems in south Washington County. “We’re using what the Creator has given us, and it’s much higher quality water.”
She keeps two plastic Ziploc bags of ice cubes in the freezer. The clear ones are made from recycled gray water; the cloudy ones come from well water, she said. “There’s a huge difference in quality,” she said. A typical house goes through 75 gallons of water per person a day – none of it recycled. The Elston’s need about three gallons of water per person a day to make up for the water they lose through flushing the toilets, evaporation and drinking.
That water comes from the sky. The Elston’s use screened gutters to collect and pipe rainwater into two giant cisterns, where the water is filtered. “That’s the best water in the world, because it’s the softest water you can get,” he said.