Where does all that waste go?
With 1300 people on base, there is a lot of waste to get rid of. Last week, we toured the waste water treatment plant. Until 2003, all of McMurdo sewage was dumped into the ocean. The new waste water treatment plant is considered “green” and uses an Aerobic process to break down the sewage. There is a great cartoon at the entrance to the plant that sums up the process. The process is started with the “muffin monster” which grinds up all of the incoming sewage: The “Muffin Monster Masticator” is the green machine at the back of the picture.
The waste is ground up and transferred by pipes into large vats for separation.
A mixture of bacteria is raised and mixed in with the waste water to assist with break down of the organic material and the release nitrogen.
The bubbles are from the oil in the kitchen. We do not have an oil filter for the kitchen waste. The solids then separate from the water.
The sludge is pressed into “cake,” an inert substance that is packaged for shipment to a Los Angeles Landfill. An interesting fact is that tomato plants often grow in the cake because humans and this process do not digest tomato seeds.
As you recall, the now clear water stayed at the top. The water is run through UV to kill any remaining bugs.
The water is then released into the ocean where it mixes with the brine from our saltwater desalination plant. Pretty Amazing!