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

EPA Grant Number: SU836015
Title: An On-Site Biological Graywater Treatment System Suitable for a Small Business
Investigators: Houser, James , Swinson, Bobbie Jo , Lail, April Lafone , Martin, Jack , Hambourger, Michael
Current Investigators: Houser, James , Swinson, Bobbie Jo , Gropper, Alexis , May, Erik , Downey, Erin , Wallach, Hannah , Martin, Jack , Trowbridge, Jamie , Johnson, Jennifer , Kenny, Jillian , Hauser, Katarina , Williams, Megan , Hambourger, Michael , Winkler, Robin , Roark, Stephanie
Institution: Appalachian State University
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2011 through August 14, 2012
Project Amount: $14,988
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2011) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Sustainable and Healthy Communities , P3 Challenge Area - Safe and Sustainable Water Resources , P3 Awards , Sustainable and Healthy Communities


With less than one percent of accessible freshwater available on Earth for drinking water, there is a critical need to conserve and recycle water. Municipal wastewater treatment is intensive in the use of money, chemicals, and energy. In many rural areas, such facilities are unavailable. Alternate, low-cost methods of water purification could reduce water and energy consumption, while minimizing environmental degradation. The proposed work aims to develop an artificial wetland suitable for recycling of graywater at or near the point of use. This system will exploit terrestrial and aquatic plants to remove contaminants and excess nutrients from the graywater of a small business; purifying the water for immediate reuse. For demonstration purposes, work will focus on graywater from a local hair salon. The project proposes novel use of a modular, compact design suitable for installation in a local business as “living art”; while expanding the understanding of graywater recycling and purification of salon waste water.


Phase 1 research will combine biology, chemistry and appropriate technologies to create an on-site biological graywater treatment and reprocessing system. An aerobic tank will be the first stage of treatment process, followed by a subsurface-flow constructed wetland which will serve as the secondary treatment stage of the system. Researchers will utilize an existing system constructed at Appalachian State University’s biodiesel processing laboratory in a small greenhouse. The structure was originally funded by the EPA P3 grant program to biologically treat the waste wash from the biodiesel facility, however the biodiesel facility is now using a dry wash technique and no longer needs to treat waste water. For purposes of the research, a local hair salon’s graywater will be characterized. Two of the interdisciplinary team’s members have experience with working in a salon/spa setting and provide numerous contacts within the beauty industry, including the research salon.

Expected Results:

It is anticipated that the project will provide proof of concept that graywater can be recycled in an inexpensive, compact, and aesthetically pleasing system. Standard analytical techniques will be used to assess the success of water purification. Plant health will be assessed as biomass accumulation. Enhanced phytoremediation through synergistic effects at the plant-community level will be investigated. Public demonstration of the system will increase awareness and acceptance of graywater reuse.

Supplemental Keywords:

sustainable water management, water purification technologies, water treatment technologies, sustainable urban planning, environmental planning, biofiltration technology, closed loop recycling, water conservation, design for the environment

Relevant Websites:

Phase 2 Abstract

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report
  • P3 Phase II:

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