News Articles about the SludgeHammer System and Company
Aerobic Bacteria A Low Cost
Way To Deal With Wastewater
by L. Scott Swanson ~ The Straitlsland Resorter, Indian River, Michigan
When your home’s wastewater system backs up, you can find yourself in deep poop, both literally and figuratively.
Sludgehammer Group Ltd. is a business that uses aerated bacteria to consume and take care of the waste in septic tanks and drain fields in a much more efficient and cost effective manner than traditional anaerobic septic systems or sewer systems The system both avoids and corrects wastewater system problems.
While the business has worked on large systems throughout the world, it has a division in Petoskey and now also has a branch in Indian River. When the sewer system issue became a hot topic in Indian River, local residents looked into alternatives and found the Sludgehammer system.
Dr. Dan Wickham, spent years as a research ecologist at the University of California. After developing micro-organisms to detoxify petroleum contaminated soils, he began experimenting with microbes to use for wastewater treatment. He found that certain bacteria, particularly in an aerated environment, perform well in treating wastewater. In order to introduce oxygen into septic tanks Wickham developed an Aerobic Bacterial Generator.
As Buzz Jenks, Sludgehammer’s CEO in Petoskey explains, the system is very simple. It’s basically an air pump that pumps air through a cylinder that is inserted into a septic tank along with a stick that has small bags of bacteria attached to it. The bacteria consume septic waste and convert it to nitrogen. The bacteria reproduce, a portion of the bacteria cling to the surface of the cylinder and the remainder drifting into the septic tank and out into the drain field. The bacteria in the drain field continue consuming waste.
Drain fields typically fail when they become clogged with a “biomat.” A biomat is slime caused by anaerobic bacteria. The slime plugs up the drain field and causes it to back up. Aerated bacteria from the Sludghammer system break down the biomat and allow the field to function again.
Jenks, who had been a biology student in college and later a pilot, was working in construction when he ran into Wickham at a conference. Wickham told Jenks about the wastewater treatment system he had developed. Jenks said he had reservations, but Wickham told him to give him a call the next time he ran into someone with a really bad septic field problem.
A short time later, Jenks was called to a Walloon Lake commercial site where a septic field was failing. The field was backing up and there was no convenient location to put in a new field. Jenks gave Wickham a call. Wickham arranged to install a Sludgehammer system and within a few weeks the water started to go down and the field started working again. Jenks said that was nine years ago and that field is still functioning.
The system uses a form of bacillus bacteria, which is the same bacteria that breaks down leaves and other organic matter. Jenks says that as long as the bacteria have oxygen and food they’re ferocious about breaking down waste.
Jenks said the concept is simple and inexpensive. “Our nemesis is that it’s too simple,” Jenks says. People expect something more complex and expensive and due to that sometimes have reservations until they see the system work.
The cost of a Sludgehammer residential unit typically ranges between $3,200 and $4,800, depending on how much site work is required. Electricity needs to be available to run the pump, which uses the same amount of electricity as a 60-watt light bulb.
Where a traditional anaerobic system has problems with grease and food from garbage disposals, the aerobic bacteria devour those things.
One of the business challenges Sludgehammer currently faces is that it’s being pulled in multiple directions. They have demand for large commercial applications, both in soil remediation and wastewater treatment, around the globe, but they also have growing demand for smaller commercial and residential wastewater treatment.
After Hurricane Katrina they were called to install a wastewater system on a barge that construction workers used to get oil platforms back up and running. In Mexico, Sludgehammer helped clean up a 40-acre site that was contaminated with oil. A Sludgehammer system in the Kraimia Marketplace in Tripoli, Libya handles 240,000 gallons of waste from a slaughterhouse and another 140,000 gallons of human waste each day.
The wastewater that comes out of the Sludgehammer system is clean enough so that it can be used in drip irrigation systems, which people in arid areas like because it conserves water.
Against that backdrop, Sludgehammer is also expanding its smaller commercial and residential operations. Richard Lincoln recently opened a branch office in Indian River called Innovative Septic Solutions (231-760-0103).
Jenks said he enjoys the smaller projects and being able to help people fix their drain fields without bringing in bulldozers and disturbing the landscaping.
Art Doty of Indian River had a Sludgehammer system installed last spring for demonstration purposes. “I’ve been impressed with it,” he said. “When they put it in, I had a foot of crud on top of there. Now, it’s virtually clear.”
Unlike a normal septic system, when you pull the lid off of a Sludgehammer septic tank, it doesn’t stink. A jar on a stick dipped down into the tank will bring up clear water.
Jenks says the Sludgehammer system is an affordable technology that allows decentralized systems that work better than traditional anaerobic systems and at a much lower installation and operational cost than sewer systems. The system meets national and international water quality standards.