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Green couple in Afton say they've harnessed nature

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news Woodbury, 55125
Woodbury Bulletin
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Woodbury Minnesota 8420 City Centre Drive 55125

"It all starts with the toilet and it all goes back to the toilet."

That's the view of super-green duo Clint and Bobbi Elston, and they're standing by it.

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The aquatically self-sufficient couple, who live on Upper 34th Street South in Afton, have transformed their home into a living, working, zero-discharge property, with an entirely self-contained wastewater and self-sufficient water system.

They may seem slightly obsessed by the humble toilet - but perhaps it's with good reason, for it's here that Clint's work began 30 years ago, when he embarked upon the first stage of a mission to invent an entirely self-sufficient water treatment system to eliminate the issues associated with discharging sewage and wastewater.

The two toilets in the Elstons' home both come equipped with computers ("It's part of the trouble shooting," explained Clint, 60.

"The computer knows how much water to add so you don't overflow it"), and are flushed with "better than bottled water quality water," according to Bobbi, 58.

Flushing happens by means of a vacuum generator in the downstairs bathroom, and by utilizing good old gravity in the upstairs toilet.

The toilets -- and the garbage disposal, for that matter -- are hooked up to what is perhaps the most incredible aspect of the whole wastewater treatment part of their system, the composter, otherwise known as the bio-matter resequencing converter.

This is the hub of the operation, a giant barrel-shaped box, fitted out with a fan, two gear motors, a little pine bedding - and a few million red worms.

It's the worms who make this whole system work, literally eating the waste and turning it into soil, specifically, about 25-30 gallons a year, which can be disposed of in the shrubbery.

"You are here, basically at a sewage treatment plant," says Clint, gesturing around the composter room as he explains he has basically mechanized the same process found in nature.

"You are literally looking at a box of s*** and yet, you can't smell a thing."

What makes his system work, he says, is his separation technology. By that, he means the toilet waste and garbage disposal waste ("black water") are never mingled with gray water (wastewater from the shower, dishwasher, washing machine, sink and so on).

By keeping the two separate, Clint and Bobbi can recycle their gray water, using it over and over again.

They claim to be entirely self-sufficient, capturing rainwater for all their water needs. Well water is only used for heating, explains Clint, while the rainwater is filtered, and used for drinking, bathing and showering and providing water to appliances.

It's here that the real genius of the invention kicks in. Three large, cone-shaped tanks -- the surge, aerator and clarifier tanks -- work together as water enters them from the bath or shower, sink and appliances.

Hundreds of small, open balls sitting in the tanks provide a home for natural bacteria, which start the process of cleaning up the water, while sediment sinks to the bottom and is pumped out.

The water is then passed through the Enfinity Plus water recycling system. This is the nerve center of the entire process, where the gray water (and it is, literally, still gray at this point) passes through a carbon filter, ozone tank and reverse osmosis process to produce the "better than bottled water quality water" of which the Elstons are so proud.

"People say they don't want to drink their wastewater, but whose wastewater are you drinking from the tap?" asks Bobbi, pointing to the recent scare over the news that a 3M chemical had been found in drinking water in Woodbury and Cottage Grove, and the national news reports that a variety of prescription drugs had been found in water across the U.S.

"There is nothing like this on the planet," says Clint. "We are the only ones who are doing this.

"The economic development capacity that this technology has is bigger than Microsoft. Everyone needs water; not everyone needs a computer."

For more information on Equaris, log on to www.equaris.com or call Clint and Bobbi Elston on (651) 337-0261.

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