In wars of yore, the slit-trench was state-of-the art field sanitation, filled to the brim and then maybe backfilled; but today, when even losers are litigious, it's not a good idea to leave that kind of mess.
Now, the Texas Research Institute for Environmental Studies (TRIES) at Sam Houston State University and PCDworks, a technology innovation firm, have developed a self-sustaining, portable and "smart" wastewater treatment system that promises to take over where the porta-potty leaves off. (PDF)
Housed in the ubiquitous 40-foot shipping container, the Deployable Aqueous Aerobic Bioreactor (DAAB,) can convert a battalion's worth of wastewater (the effluent from approximately 600 soldiers) to something that meets Environmental Protection Agencystandards within 24 to 48 hours, according to TRIES.
A self-contained, bio-digestion unit uses specially selected bacteria to remove organic and inorganic materials from the waste, and then releases "clean" water into the environment "with no harmful consequences." The system is completely autonomous. It adjusts flow and fluid levels automatically, and can dispatch reports and alerts, and be turned on and off via the Internet.
It runs on common household 120-volt, and while the treated runoff is not potable (yet), it's good enough for other uses like irrigation, according to PCDworks.
"The potential implications of this technology are huge," SHSU's Sabin Holland, told Waste World magazine. "We can increase the health and safety of our troops overseas by eliminating the need for unreliable wastewater treatment contractors, clean up Katrina-type disaster sites more rapidly, and deliver safer water supplies to third world countries."
DAAB units are expected to be deployed to Iraq in 2010--another reason to stick around.