Environmental Protection

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission will incorporate water reuse in its new building.

San Francisco PUC Selects Living Machine System for Office

The system introduces high-strength wastewater to a diverse microbial ecosystem, or biofilm, growing on the surface of a special gravel medium contained in a series of watertight basins.

Worrell Water Technologies, an ecological wastewater reuse technology and innovation company, has announced that the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (PUC) selected its Living Machine® system for on-site wastewater treatment and water reuse in its new office building.

The new San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s administration offices will be a 13-story, 277,500-square-foot building that generates its own energy through integrated solar panels and wind turbines and treats and recycles all wastewater for use with an on-site Living Machine system.

“The new San Francisco Public Utilities Commission office building shows how we can begin to transition to decentralizing energy and water systems, even in a dense urban area, to create buildings, communities, and regions that are resilient, sustainable, and able to produce and reuse valuable resources on-site,” said Will Kirksey, senior vice president at Worrell Water Technologies.

The Living Machine system will be integrated into the lobby and outside landscaping, taking all gray and black water from the building and treating the water through advanced ecological engineering. The system is composed of enhanced wetland processes treating up to 5,000 gallons of wastewater per day. The wetlands require only about 1,000 square feet and that area provides green space, supporting a host of lush plantings. Wastewater will flow below the wetland surface in watertight cells so there is no smell, mosquito habitat, or health hazards.

The treated water will be reused for toilet flushing. The SFPUC projects that the system will allow the building to save approximately 750,000 gallons of water per year, with an additional 900,000 gallons available for nonpotable future uses.

“As part of our commitment to be a national leader in sustainable design, we needed to select a water solution that would allow us to drastically minimize our water needs and incorporate ecological engineering and technology for water reuse,” said SFPUC General Manager Ed Harrington. “The Living Machine system provides the innovative technology needed to locally recycle water in a sustainable, ecological and energy efficient way.”

The system adapts and enhances the ecological processes in a tidal wetland, nature’s most productive ecosystem. A computer controls fill and drain cycles, alternating anoxic (without oxygen) and aerobic (with oxygen) conditions. The system treats high-strength (blackwater) sewage within a small footprint and in an energy efficient, safe, attractive and cost-effective manner.

The system introduces high-strength wastewater (blackwater) to a diverse microbial ecosystem, or biofilm, growing on the surface of a special gravel medium contained in a series of watertight basins. The basins fill with water allowing the microorganisms to begin consuming the nutrients. After a specific time interval, the basins are drained by gravity and pumps, and atmospheric oxygen passively infuses the medium. Oxygen is required to rapidly consume and convert remaining nutrients.

The resulting water can be used for irrigation, toilet flushing, cooling towers, industrial processes, washing equipment or animal areas, and filling landscape water features (i.e. fish ponds and fountains).

Worrell Water Technologies provides ecological wastewater treatment and water purification technologies. Headquartered in Charlottesville, Va., Worrell Water has a portfolio of proprietary intellectual property and a diverse professional, engineering and research staff.

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