Research Grants/Fellowships/SBIR

An On-Site Biological Graywater Treatment System Suitable for a Small Business

EPA Grant Number: SU835330
Title: An On-Site Biological Graywater Treatment System Suitable for a Small Business
Investigators: Swinson, Bobbie Jo , Carter, Daniela , Dipple, Kathleen , Downey, Erin , Gardner, Benjamin , Gropper, Alexis , Hambourger, Mike , Hauser, Katarina , Houser, James , Johnson, Jennifer , Kenny, Jillian , Martin, Jack , McCachren, Ross , Poston, Elizabeth , Roark, Stephanie , Uzenski, Grace , Williams, Megan , Winkler, Robin
Institution: Appalachian State University
EPA Project Officer: Lank, Gregory
Project Period: August 15, 2012 through August 14, 2014
Project Amount: $89,708
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet - Phase 2 (2012) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Built Environment , P3 Challenge Area - Water , P3 Awards , Sustainability


The project aims to implement a plant-based biological filter for graywater remediation and reuse in a small business. This “living system” will be installed in a local hair salon (Haircut 101, Boone, NC), where it will reduce demands on the municipal water supply, decrease water costs, demonstrate the potential of graywater recycling, and provide a focal point for public education regarding water quality and conservation.


  1. Quantify the phytoremediation potential of various plant species.
  2. Design and evaluate prototype water filtration systems.
  3. Install a functional “living system” in a local business, allowing for biological filtration and graywater reuse.
  4. Promote education through public outreach and integration with course curriculums.


Preliminary results have shown that biological filtration is a feasible means of removing contaminants from the graywater stream of a hair salon. Plant species will be tested for efficacy in the proposed design, with a focus on species that are robust and aesthetically pleasing. Small-scale prototype systems will be evaluated to determine optimal species composition and flow rate for graywater purification. Ultimately, a full-scale prototype system will be constructed and tested. Once this full-scale system meets acceptable performance standards an identical system will be installed in a local hair salon. Graywater from salon sinks will be purified and reused for toilet flushing prior to entering municipal sewers.

Expected Results:

The “living system” is anticipated to conserve up to 35,000 gallons of potable water each year. This installation will decrease costs for a local business and promote public awareness of water conservation and water quality issues. It is hoped that a successful demonstration project will educate the general public and students about the potential for alternative sustainable water-treatment systems and inspire other small-scale, decentralized water purification systems.

Supplemental Keywords:

living machines, sustainable water management, water purification technologies, sustainable development, ecological water purification, pharmaceuticals in water, treatment technologies, sustainable urban planning, environmental planning, bioengineering, biofiltration technology, closed loop recycling, conservation, design for the environment

Relevant Websites:

Phase I abstract