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Established in 1995 this project was a joint venture between the Municipality of Annapolis County, Government of Canada the Province of Nova Scotia. Currentlyplant.gif (33528 bytes) owned by The Municipality of Annapolis County the plant is the first solar aquatic treatment facility in the country and the first full-scale plant in North America. Applied Environmental Systems (a Nova Scotia Company) was responsible for the design and construction of the facility and continues to offer technical support and expertise. This project has attracted interest from both the scientific and environmental communities with the facility being the recipient of the "1995 Sustainable Communities Award".

The Bear River Solar Aquatics Wastewater Treatment Facility is a wastewater treatment system that functions in a greenhouse. The facility at Bear River is 2400 square feet and contains a dozen solar tanks as well as a solar pond. The solar tanks are home to a variety of plant life as well as bacteria, snails and fish. The purification of the wastewater starts with what is called the blending tank. Here the solids in the wastewater are broken up and bacteria are added. This process, known as bioaugmentation, is used to aid in converting the wastewater to prime material for the ecosystem to feed on. By breaking up the solid material the facility avoids producing sludge like conventional systems, which allow the solids to settle out. At this stage the water is also aerated, with the increased oxygen levels in the water enhancing and accelerating the process.

There are presently twelve solar tanks measuring 5 feet by 6 feet in diameter. The tanks are gravity fed from one to the next, with each tank being a mini ecosystem. Inside each tank there is algae, zoo plankton, phytoplankton, snails, fish and specially selected plants that feed on the organic compounds in the water. As the wastewater progresses from one tank to the next, more and more of the organic compounds are removed.

tank.gif (26334 bytes)After the wastewater has passed through all twelve solar tanks it flows into a 31 foot by 19.5-foot solar pond which is 9.5 feet deep. The pond has three sections separated by hanging baffles and contains the same ecosystem as the solar tanks only larger. The consumption of organic material continues here and the water is further aerated to again increase oxygen levels.

Some of the affluent is pumped into a marsh where the various species of marsh grass act in the processes of denitrification, nutrient uptake, and removal of phosphorus and final "water polishing". The water is then passed through a "swirl separator" and a "rotary drum filter" where any remaining solids are removed and digested aerobically in underground stabilizing tanks and then applied to a "reed bed" compost. The affluent is then UV disinfected and gravity fed into the Bear River Estuary. While the "reed bed" is in place to deal with any remaining solids that may still be present at the end of the process this has never been required. The final result is water that meets or exceeds Nova Scotia environmental standards processed chemically free in an odorless and lush environment.

The Bear River Solar Aquatics Wastewater Treatment Facility is currently configured to process 15,000 imperial gallons of wastewater per day or over four million imperial gallons a year. At the time of construction the facility was designed to make expansion of the facility as easy and cost effective as possible. The more complicated and expensive components of the facility were purposely built to exceed current needs and requirements. To increase the processing capabilities of the facility only the greenhouse would have to be enlarged. It is also easy to upgrade the system to clean the affluent to a higher quality. The mini ecosystems may appear fragile and vulnerable to agents such as toxins to the untrained eye. However the high degree of diversity through out the system allows it deal with agents such as toxins as a complex group. Other systems rely on a few specialized micro-organisms that may fall victim to a toxin(s) shutting those systems down.

The public is encouraged to visit Bear River and tour the facility. It is open from mid June to mid September Monday to Friday one p.m. to five p.m. and noon to five p.m. on Sundays. You may also make an appointment to tour the site by calling 1-902-467-3774 or visit their site at http://www.annapoliscounty.ns.ca/solaraqu.htm or if you have more questions please contact Environmental Design and Management Ltd. at info@edm.ca

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