The Living Machine(TM)

Touring the Living Machine greenhouse.
dwm photo
After the cheese is made and the whey scooped up, dried, and shipped out; there is water.

Waste water from the process and elsewhere in the plant.  Then it enters a "Living Machine."

It's an ecosystem of microbes and plants that naturally cleans the water through a series of 10 tanks (there's that 10 again, see the 3/9 blog for more 10s).

Over 4 days, the water flows downhill as its scrubbed by microbes and hydrophilic plants.

The water in the first two tanks is aerated, giving the microbes a good working environment as the single cell bacteria eat everything in the waste water, breaking large molecules into smaller ones.  Larger microbes graze on nutrients and bacteria.

Hydrophilic plants purify the water
In the open tanks, large plants thrive as their roots stretch toward the bottom of the tanks.  Bacteria and microbes cling to the roots.  15% of the nutrients are removed by the plants which may grow 6 inches a week.

Finally, there's a settling tank where the solid particles fall to the bottom of the tank, creating a thick blanket of sludge.  Some of the microbes in the sludge will re-enter this living machine while the rest is pumped into a holding tank until it can be used as natural fertilizer.

Settling tank
It's an amazing system which removes 98% of suspended solids, 93% of nitrogen, and 57% of the phosphorous.

The water, which began its journey into the Cedar Grove Cheese factory from a well, cleaner than Honey Creek, the next part of the journey.

Our guide on the trip said this feature of the plant draws visitors from around the world; including leaders from Africa looking for natural solutions to water pollution.
He likes the water.

The set-up acts like a natural wetland, but faster.  Once the water is pumped up to the system, gravity handles the rest of the process.

The cheese is great, no modified genetics and no hormones.  Even better is this "Living Machine" of cleansing - leaving the water clean and the customers and plant workers happy with the results.