A New Waste-handling System for Pig Farms

Source: ARS : News & Events

Blue Lagoons on Pig Farms? A new waste-handling system can make it a reality

In Duplin County, North Carolina, a full-scale wastewater treatment system (foreground) that replaced the swine lagoon. (D033-1) The environment and hog producers alike should benefit from a new way developed by ARS scientists and collaborators to treat swine-production wastewater.

In fact, researchers at ARS’s Coastal Plains Soil, Water, and Plant Research Center in Florence, South Carolina, are delighted with the new system’s stellar performance throughout a recent, extensive evaluation.

A combination of technologies developed by companies in the United States, Spain, and Japan, as well as by ARS researchers, the system comprises tanks and staging areas laid out over 200 feet. In three stages, it separates solids and liquids, removes ammonia, recovers soluble phosphorus, and processes the solids into plant fertilizer.

The system performs three critical processes in animal-waste management: It separates solids and liquids from swine wastewater while recovering organic matter; it removes ammonia from wastewater, using acclimated nitrifying bacteria; and it transforms phosphorus removed from wastewater into a solid, marketable fertilizer while converting leftover effluent into an environmentally friendly liquid crop fertilizer.

"Results showed that this system can have a great impact in animal-waste treatment," says Szogi.

How great an impact?

It removed more than 97 percent of total suspended solids from wastewater during the tests. It stripped the water of 95 percent of its total phosphorus, 99 percent of its ammonia, 98 percent of its copper, 99 percent of its zinc, more than 99 percent of its biochemical oxygen demand, and more than 97 percent of its odor-causing components.

The reduction in fecal microorganisms achieved in this system resulted in disinfected effluent. Says microbiologist Patricia Millner, a project cooperator from ARS’s Environmental Microbial Safety Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, "This prevents dispersion of pathogens into soil, water, or air when the treated effluent is sprayed onto fields or recycled into storage ponds."

Indeed, the evaluation site’s old wastewater lagoon was converted into clean, aerated water. "It changed color, from brown to blue," says Hunt.

Minimizing the impact of livestock waste on the environment is one of U.S. agriculture’s major challenges. With swine facilities, the problem is compounded when nutrient-rich waste is flushed into lagoons and then applied to cropland. Problems arise when more nutrients are applied than crops or forage can use, causing excess nutrient runoff that can lead to poor drinking water and oxygen depletion in bodies of water.

The magnitude of this challenge was clear during the evaluation. At its operating peak during the trial, the system processed waste generated by more than 4,000 pigs. On average, 12,700 gallons of manure—containing 176 pounds of nitrogen—were flushed from the complex each day!

via Science Blog

Graphical Jazz

This is a great example of great music combined with intelligent web design. (Note: It may take a minute to load.)

Giant Steps

via Anil Dash

From the creator Michal Levy.

About the Project: Giant Steps Graduation Project, Visual Communication Department, "The academy of Arts and Design, Bezalel".

When I listen to music I see colors and shapes and when I watch visual art I hear sounds. I wanted to express my sensing of shapes colors and music in this short movie. I have chosen a short Jazz piece, which I have known for many years of my playing the saxophone: "Giant Steps" by John Coltrane. Coltrane made a major break through with his album "Giant Steps" in the year 1959. It was the first time in the history of Jazz music that someone based his music on symmetrical patterns, which stemmed from a mathematical division of the musical scale. The structural approach of John Coltrane to music is associated with architectural thinking. The musical theme defines a space and the musical improvisation is like someone drifting in that imaginary space.

"Architecture is crystallized music". Goethe.

Green Homes

Jamais Cascio describes the kind of homes that we need in the hot, humid South. As my nephew James Abrams has pointed out, energy costs in California are proportionately much less — due to the high home prices (and corresponding monthly mortgage payments) — than in the South. Here in the South, we have much less expensive housing but greater annual temperature extremes, with significant heating costs in the winter and high cooling costs in the summer.

Developer Clarum Homes has just completed the "Vista Montana" community in Watsonville, California. Vista Montana has the nation’s largest building-integrated solar electric system in an apartment complex, a 60 kW system projected to produce over 90 megawatt-hours annually. The units were constructed to use 40 percent less energy than would otherwise be typical.

The program includes the installation of tightly sealed ductwork, a high-efficiency heating and ventilation system, and smart glass windows. Hydronic heating units were used to achieve energy efficiency through the combined function of heating both the water and the living space.

Clarum specializes in green residential projects, and its "Enviro-Home" claims at least a 90% reduction in energy costs. Clarum built an all-Enviro-Home community in Watsonville in 2003, and has energy-efficient and solar-power homes in its other developments. The specs do sound good — integrated solar electric, on-demand water heater, super-efficient windows, etc. — and the home designed received the Zero Energy Home (PDF) designation from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Source: WorldChanging: Another World Is Here: Green Homes.

Nun May Protect Forests Posthumously

Let’s hope faith and courage overcomes greed and violence in the long run.

The murder of an American nun during an Amazon land dispute will serve as a wake up call for Brazil’s authorities to better protect the jungle from developers, Brazil’s president said in his first comments since the Feb. 12 slaying. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said Monday that once those who ordered Dorothy Stang’s murder were behind bars, Brazil will show the world that, "in our government, there is no impunity, that the Amazon is ours and we will take control of our territory."

Stang, 73, a naturalized Brazilian, spent the past 20 years living in Brazil’s lawless Para state, trying to protect the rain forest and peasants from loggers and ranchers vying for the area’s rich natural resources.

Responding to the international outcry over her killing, Silva put nearly 19,900 square miles of Amazon land under federal environmental protection and suspended logging in some hotly disputed areas.

Brazil’s Amazon rain forest covers 1.6 million square miles. Its stands of hardwoods — mahogany, ipe and massaranduba — are coveted by loggers, who often flout laws and cut the timber illegally. The Amazon forest is essential to the success of the Kyoto pact because the vast wilderness absorbs carbon dioxide and produces oxygen. By contrast, burning the forest produces more greenhouse gas.

Source: Brazil Leader Vows to Catch Nun’s Killers.

Golf course wetlands clean water and may control neighborhood flood problems

Link: Wetlands clean water and may control neighborhood flood problems.

Constructed wetlands in planned communities can aid in surface water cleanup and flood prevention, according to Purdue University scientists who completed a five-year study on the management system. The research, begun in 1998 on three constructed ponds, or wetland cells, on a newly renovated golf course on the university campus, showed that 11 of 17 measurable chemicals in surface water were reduced after running through the system, said Ron Turco, soil microbiologist and senior author of the report. Study results are published in the February issue of the journal Ecological Engineering.

"Golf courses are a perfect place for constructed wetlands used as part of a water management system because wetlands can filter chemicals out of surface water, and they can also store excess water during storms," Turco said.

In addition, constructed wetlands act as a holding area that can provide recycled water for irrigation, a system the scientists used on the golf course, he said.

"Constructed wetlands on golf courses and in planned communities are a very good water management system," Turco said. "When you build houses, roads and driveways, lots of hard surface is added, leaving no place for water to go. Building dikes and levees just moves the water problem somewhere else, causing flooding elsewhere."

Because golf courses are mostly open surfaces, as opposed to all the hard surfaces in subdivisions and shopping malls, water can soak into the soil and flow into a constructed wetland, he said. As surface water flows from adjacent roads and parking lots onto a golf course and into the constructed wetlands, nutrients, suspended solids, organic metals, trace elements, pesticides and pathogens are removed or even eradicated.

"Wetlands actually add a positive aspect to the water balance of a given region because they are basically infiltration sites," Turco said.

The most vital function of constructed wetlands is preventing flooding and environmental contamination, he said.

"Use of constructed wetlands can be significant in water management and water quality just by their use on the approximately 16,000 U.S. golf courses the National Golf Foundation lists," Turco said. "In addition, many new home developments are planned around golf courses, and these developments need ways of containing, cleaning and directing water runoff, especially during storms."

The wetlands also are of aesthetic value on golf courses and residential areas, and they create homes for wildlife and flora, he said. Using the recycled water for irrigation ensures that the wetlands remain wet and the recycled surface water is less expensive than pumping ground water.

via Science Blog

Balancing Faith with Reason

I was not aware of al-Ghazali contributions to religious thought, but we would all benefit if his influence on the Islamic world increased. Thanks to Joshua Allen for this post.

Abu Hamid al-Ghazali was an important inflection point in human philosophy. Roughly 1000 years ago, he was instrumental in introducing Aristotle and Plato to the Islamic world. He made several improvements on the work of the previous philosophers and had a lasting impact on western philosophy. However, 500 years before the “cult of reason” swept the west, he saw the potential for a clash between rationalism and mysticism. Soon the Islamic rationalists were hard at work exterminating all traces of revealed authority by making faith subordinate to reason, while the blind faithful attacked the very core of this new threat by attempting to exterminate reason.

al-Ghazali was one of the first to use reason in service of religious doctrine, and the most honest.  In comparison, the attempts of Aquinas and Pascal seem cheap and deceptive.  But Ghazali also realized the futility of making faith subordinate to reason, as well as the futility of making reason subordinate to faith.  He saw both parties in the reason vs. faith debate as being misguided — the two should enrich one another, not obliterate one another.  Through mastery of both systems, he argued that blind faith in reason is just as bankrupt as blind faith in revealed authority.  He made the religious dogmatists just as nervous as the blind rationalists.  During his life, he witnessed the birth of the strain of theocratic philosophy that led to the assassains and predated modern Islamists, and endured threats on his life from these fundamentalists.  He was utimately able to see these extremists brought into check and his more balanced approach prevailed for several hundred years.  It’s only in recent years that Maududi and Qutb succeeded in reviving the Islamist political ideology of the revealed authority dogmatists.

There are several current theories about what the west should do in order to “save” the Arab world from the grip of the Islamists (he would call Batinists).  Popular proposals include imposition of western values of liberty, democracy, free markets, scientific inquiry, and secularism.  The memes competing for supremacy in the world today look remarkably like the “four doctrines“ which Ghazali described competing in his day; reading his writings it is amazing to note how little has changed.  Ghazali’s felt that spiritual enlightenment is a very personal thing which must be gained through experience, and cannot be taught, indoctrinated, or imposed.  He predicted that true enlightenment is impossible in conditions of social strife and upheaval, when indoctrination and propaganda take precedence, and saw a function of government as a mechanism to provide the stability and framework necessary for individuals to find spiritual enlightenment for themselves (the opposite of sharia, which seeks to impose, but also not a “cult of liberty”, which is its own dogma).  This balanced “Zhong Yong” philosophy could seem indecisive in a world of absolutes, but I think it’s closest to what we really want.

Source: Better Living Through Software – Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali.

SHINE: Solar High-Impact National Energy

Why don’t we reduce funding for terrorists — by investing our energy dollars on solar energy in the US rather than on oil and military in the Middle East?

Link: Clean Edge – The Clean-Tech Market Authority – Reports.

This report describes a clear and compelling pathway to an energy future that creates energy and economic security for America. It generates thousands of American jobs in every state and restores U.S. leadership in global energy markets. It is a plan that harnesses market forces, nudged by a small initial government investment, to produce staggering economic, environmental, and social returns. It is revenue-neutral for taxpayers and ratepayers, and produces economic returns that cover the cost of the program several times over.

In simplest terms, this report explores the following question: What would an American "man on the moon" effort look like that could rapidly and dramatically transform solar energy into a truly cost-competitive, job-creating source of electricity?

We’ve outlined such a vision, which we’ve called the Solar High-Impact National Energy (SHINE) Project. It calls for an ambitious and aggressive, three-pronged initiative to make solar both cost-competitive and a significant part of America’s energy mix within 10 years. It emphasizes the positive benefits American-made solar can have on energy security, U.S. business growth, the creation of thousands of jobs across the nation, environmental and public health, and reducing stress on America’s electricity grid.

With business as usual, we get none of this. In fact, we are likely to lose yet another American industry, and all the jobs that go with it, to Europe and Asia.

In short, America stands at an energy crossroads, an historic decision-making moment that could shape the nation’s competitiveness and security. America’s energy crossroads present two divergent pathways for renewable energy in general, and solar in particular. One is business-as-usual, in which solar remains a high-cost, niche technology, produced mainly overseas by Japanese and European companies, continuing its impressive growth rate, but never producing more than a tiny percentage of America’s energy needs.

The alternative pathway forged by SHINE presents a far brighter future, producing up to 20 times more clean, renewable energy — and up to 20 times more American jobs — than the business-as-usual case. It harnesses the impressive track record of U.S. industry in ramping up promising technologies to bring down costs and improve performance, while helping to ensure America’s security by significantly increasing the amount of pollution-free, home-grown energy produced by the sun.

Specifically, SHINE calls for:

  • SUNUP: a federal block-grant program, providing matching funds to states to implement innovative and cost-effective solar installation programs;
  • U.S. RISE: an aggressive, long-term federal commitment to purchase solar systems for government facilities and operations; and
  • ASAP: a high-stakes/high-reward competition to develop and deploy new solar technologies and systems that could dramatically accelerate the reduction in solar’s costs over the next decade.

SHINE is centered on the uniquely American way of solving problems: by stimulating markets — in this case, to the point where solar can take off and bring jobs, prosperity and security to America through private-sector initiative. It can address environmental problems such as climate change without resorting to regulations and treaties.

via Joel Makower