Unique sewage recycling system opens at Emory

Emory University has created a system that uses plants and technology to recycle hundreds of thousands of gallons of raw sewage daily so that it can be used for heating, air conditioning and toilet flushing.

The Emory Waterhub, the first of its kind in the nation, cleans wastewater through a solar-powered facility using plants, microorganisms and other treatment methods.

The Waterhub opened Friday and will reduce the university’s draw from Atlanta’s municipal water supply by 146 million gallons annually and save tens of millions of dollars over the next 20 years, according to the school.

The facility, which looks like a greenhouse, will recycle nearly 40 percent of all water used at Emory. The refined water then is used as process make-up water in Emory’s steam and chiller plants.

Emory’s system could become a model for other universities that are considering similar technology, including Georgia Tech, Duke and the University of North Carolina. In all, representatives from 11 universities considering a Waterhub attended last week’s opening.

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The facility also will be used for student research on topics such as viruses and water-borne diseases.

It includes a 50,000-gallon emergency underground water storage tanks that would sustain Emory’s heating and cooling systems for an average of seven hours in the event of a disruption in water service.

The system was created through an agreement between Sustainable Water, a provider of water reclamation technology; Reeves Young, an Atlanta-based commercial contractor; and Emory.

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