If New Jersey has another prolonged dry spell and a drought emergency is declared, how would you feel about drinking recycled water from your shower, dishwasher or toilet?

According to Stevens Institute of Technology environmental engineering professor David Vaccari, we’ve already got the technology to do this.

“A biological treatment would be utilized using bacteria to remove and biodegrade the contaminant. Additional cleaning would be done with what are known as flocculants that remove the particles, including a lot of the bacteria. And then we add disinfectants to kill or inactivate whatever bacteria are left, and then filter it again,” he said.

The professor noted additional treatment might also be done with activated carbon to ensure the water tastes good.

“It would certainly look pure. It would be extremely pure looking, no particles present in there and you wouldn’t detect harmful levels of chemicals that might be in there,” he said.

Vaccari said transporting sewage to purifying and filtration plants would be feasible, but not cheap.

“To take the wastewater and make it available as a drinking water supply, you’ve got to pump it back (to treatment plants near reservoirs) and that’s a big energy cost right there,” he said.

The professor stressed if there were ever done on a large scale in New Jersey, “we would want to do additional polishing, both to meet stringent water quality standards, and also to give people the confidence that their water is pure.

However, he don’t believe this will happen any time soon.

“I think 10 years would be the soonest you’re likely to see it on perhaps some smaller scale or test scales,” he said.

He noted a small recycled water operation like this began in Colorado about four years ago with a capacity of 2 million gallons a day. That cost $14 million to construct.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle to overcome before we begin recycling sewage water is public perception.

“It certainly is looked down on by people," he said. "There’s the so-called famous 'yuck factor' that I think is going to make people turn to other choices first.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.

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