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Bio Clean Tech draws on life experience for cleaner water

Check out this amazing story about Bashar Al-Daomi by PSU Media's Kurt Bedell.

It was while crossing the polluted Diyala River on his commute to high school in Baghdad that Bashar Al-Daomi first realized what happens when untreated waste water gets dumped into waterways.

“Every time I crossed the river, I had to plug my nose to shut out the rotten smell coming from the water,” said the PSU environmental engineering student. “The polluted river was ruining the local economy, as no local businesses would locate near the river. I knew there had to be a better way.”

Bashar Al-Daomi of Bio Clean Tech. Photo credit: Portland State University

Those daily reminders of the pollution’s impact on rivers on everyday life in his Iraqi hometown were inspiration for Al-Daomi, a Ph.D. candidate at PSU’s Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science, to explore environmentally friendly and inexpensive ways to treat wastewater. After many years of hard work in the lab of his mentor and adviser, PSU engineering professor Bill Fish, Al-Daomi created a low-cost water treatment device that he hopes can one day revolutionize wastewater testing.

“Wastewater treatment is a massive worldwide problem, especially in developing countries like my home in Iraq that can’t pay for expensive municipal water systems,” Al-Daomi said.

Growing up in war-torn Iraq, Al-Daomi learned how to be scrappy, inventive and resourceful in building the devices he needed to complete his research. The Bio CleanTech reactor — the wastewater treatment device that he helped create — is no exception. It was built at the fraction of the cost of comparable commercial wastewater treatment systems, making it a perfect design for communities without many resources to reduce pollution.

Al-Daomi’s reactor purifies wastewater without harmful chemicals. It removes phosphorus and nitrogen from water by using specific kinds of bacteria. It is a smart device in that it can operate itself with less supervision, saving staff time and lab operation costs. Al-Daomi said chemical treatment systems are costly and often require further treatment to remove the chemicals themselves.

“With affordable and environmentally friendly devices like this reactor, wastewater treatment solutions can be built out and rolled out in urban areas that are beginning to deal with their wastewater issues,” he said.

The Bio CleanTech device was created in collaboration with Mohmmad Osman, an engineering designer at Murraysmith, a Portland engineering firm. Osman is also a PSU civil and environmental engineering alumnus.

Since winning the 2018 PSU Cleantech Challenge in April with their invention, Al-Daomi and Osman are now refining their Bio CleanTech device for the next stage of clean technology competition, the statewide InventOR event in June. This event draws teams from a dozen colleges and universities from across the state to compete in Klamath Falls, Ore. for $25,000.

Al-Daomi said there are immediate opportunities for the reactor design to be used in high schools and colleges as a low cost way for students to learn the latest in wastewater treatment technology. Eventually public utilities can use this reactor design to test new wastewater treatment approaches in their communities.

“My hope is that with new options for treating wastewater, future generations of Iraqi children crossing the Diyala River and children living near rivers around the world will have a much different experience than I did,” said Al-Daomi. “No child should have to live with wastewater in his or her backyard.”

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