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Company proposes using algae to treat wastewater and create energy

CROWN POINT, IND. — Algaewheel, Inc., proposed building a facility in Cedar Lake, Ind., that uses algae to treat municipal wastewater and uses the sludge byproduct to produce electricity, heat, and biofuel. Christopher Limcaco, president of Algaewheel, announced that the company has partnered with Thieneman Construction to develop and design the proposal.

Continued growth of Cedar Lake has necessitated construction of a new wastewater treatment facility. The new facility will be capable of treating an estimated 2.25 million gallons of wastewater per day, and will serve the residents on the west side of Cedar Lake. The successful bidder for the project should be identified by Sept. 7, 2008. Construction of the new facility should begin this year and be completed by the end of 2009.

Algaewheel’s process uses specially designed wheels that maximize algae production and automatically harvest the algae. According to the company, the wheel, which has been in development for 13 years, quadruples the surface area available for algae production as compared with a stationery algae tank, which significantly reduces the footprint of the facility.

The algae are a component of the system that treats and filters the wastewater by removing certain contaminates, such as phosphorous, and breaking down solids. "The system is basically an algae farm using the wastewater as fertilizer," explained Limcaco. The resulting sludge is a mixture of wastewater solids and algae. This mixture is then thermally treated using a process similar to gasification, a technology that has been around for years. During the thermal process, oils are removed from the sludge mixture in stage one, and the remaining solids are gasified to produce electricity and high grade fertilizer in stage two.