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Ostara Gets Three With One Blow

July 21, 2010
Cyanobacteria Bloom

Toxic cyanobacteria Bloom on Lake IJsselmeer / Photo: Stefe on flickr

At The Artemis Project, we tend to prefer solutions that solve multiple problems at once. Hence we love Ostara‘s nutrient recovery technology. (And we like no-mix toilets.)

The Problems:

  • Peak phosphorous
  • Struvite scaling
  • Eutrophication

Peak Phosphorous

Peak phosphorous is the dilution of necessary-to-all-life phosphates and the exhaustion of concentrated caches. Estimates give us 30-40 years.

Peak phosphorous more important to human life than Peak Oil: whereas there are alternatives energy sources, there is not an alternative to phosphorous. Phosphorous is created when two oxygen atoms fuze above 1,000 megakelvins (that’s 1.8billion Fº), so humans can’t make any more of it.

Five countries own 90% of the known phosphorous deposits. Yet, most well-fed countries have a consistent source of the element: wastewater. That’s where Ostara steps in.

Ostara’s Pearl Nutrient Recovery Process harvests 90% of phosphorous and 20% of ammonia from the wastestream at water treatment plants. The process combines extracted nutrients with others to create Crystal Green, a 5-28-0 +10 Mg slow-release fertilizer.

Struvite Scaling

At wastewater treatment plants, anaerobic bacteria emit phosphates and ammonium post-digestion, creating scaling. Eventually the scaling can become like concrete, needing to be chipped away manually or dissolved with acids.  It’s an issue that’s frustrated wastewater engineers for years.  By reducing the quantity of phosphates and ammonia in the waste stream, Ostara drastically slows struvite scaling.


Life is directly dependent on phosphorous, as phosphates form the structures of RNA and DNA molecules and figure heavily in adenosine triphosphate, which nearly all cellular life uses to store energy. Plant growth positively correlates to the quantity of available phosphates, dying if too little is available and flourishing with appropriate quantities.

A menhaden fish kill in August 2003 due to severe hypoxia in Greenwich Bay, Rhode Island

A menhaden fish kill in August 2003 due to severe hypoxia in Greenwich Bay, Rhode Island / Photo: eutrophication& hypoxia on flickr

The problem comes when excess phosphorous stimulates overgrowth in ecosystems, as in aquatic environments. For example, algae blooms exhaust dissolved oxygen in coastal waters. The overgrowth leads to decreased biodiversity as certain species thrive while less agile species die off in the hypoxic environment. Other poisonous organisms such as cyanobacteria pose a threat to humans via the water supply.  The result is deadzones.

Two primary causes of aquatic eutrophication are fertilizer runoff and sewage leaching into fresh water. Fertilizer runoff has been some what mitigated by increased regulations. Sewage leaching can be reduced by processes that extract eutrophic nutrients for effective utilization before they can reach surface waters.

Ostara’s Pearl Nutrient Recovery Process does just that, lessening the risks of eutrophy and struvite scaling, while creating a positive revenue stream for wastewater treatment plants. Ostara estimates $1 million in cost-savings and revenue.  Not a bad way to protect life on earth.

Hear from Ahren Britton, CTO, Ostara Nutrient Recovery Technology at our upcoming webinar, BlueTech Tracker™ Webinar: Game-Changing Technologies – Mineral and Resource Recovery from Waste Water.

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