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UBC researcher wins award for sewage-to-fertilizer technology

A civil engineering professor at the University of British Columbia is to receive one of Canada's top innovation awards for his invention of a technology that transforms sewage sludge into fertilizer.

The phosphorus pollution in sewage creates dead zones in natural waters around the world. Yet phosphorus is also a dwindling resource needed by farmers.

Dr. Donald S. Mavinic's nutrient recovery process rescues phosphorus from sewage sludge, recycling the would-be pollutant as an environmentally friendly fertilizer. A single reactor can produce more than 500 kilograms of high quality fertilizer per day. Removing the phosphorus from wastewater also keeps it out of rivers, lakes and oceans where it can wreak ecological havoc. In addition, the process is eligible for carbon credits.

Mavinic worked out the chemistry and engineering for the phosphorus recovery system with his research associate Frederic Koch and graduate students at the University of British Columbia. Mavinic also helped spin-off the technology to Ostara Nutrient Recovery Technologies, Inc.

"This technology provides an elegant solution that benefits the environment at all stages," said US environmental advocate Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Kennedy, sits on Ostara's Board of Directors, said in a release that "the technology, developed at UBC, and commercialized by Ostara, saves our waters from damaging pollution, and creates a slow-release fertilizer product that is not dependent on the mining of phosphorus - an energy intensive process, itself - from limited reserves."

Mavinic will receive the $25,000 Dave Mitchell Award of Distinction, the Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation has announced. The Foundation, named after the former Alberta Premier, has provided over $4.2 million in awards, celebrated 225 adult and youth award winners.

Monte Paulsen reports on carbon shift for The Tyee.

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