Urban Biofilter leverages waste to improve quality of life in inner-cities. A micro-industrial forestry project grown with waste water on brownfields, Urban Biofilter bioremediates water, soil and air while shielding residents from industry and transportation routes. By valuing ecosystem services the project enables a green economy that serves environmental justice. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

URBAN BAMBOO BIOFILTER: the cultivation of micro-industrial bamboo plantations as rapidly deployable, low-cost, green infrastructure in the world’s most environmentally degraded urban slums.

Urban Bamboo Biofilters interrelate ecological, industrial and social functions including the decentralized purification of air and water, the creation of an urban green economy, the localization of renewable products, and the establishment of a secure source of sustainable building materials to construct urban dwellings and relief housing.

In our community in West Oakland, the site of our pilot project, studies show residents are five times more susceptible to cancer from diesel particulate matter than residents in the rest of California. Air pollution in urban centers around the world is creating a health crisis whose casualties are reaching the number of those killed in the AIDS epidemic. Inner-city youth and children living in slums stand to benefit the most from improved air quality.

Urban Bamboo Biofilters will be strategically planted along transportation routes and downwind of stationary pollution sources on marginalized and contaminated land. Bamboo greenbelts are highly effective windscreens and have a great capacity to sequester carbon, produce oxygen, remove particulates, mitigate noise pollution and provide visual relief from the highways and industry.

At the EBMUD treatment facility in West Oakland 70-million gallons of wastewater are processed and released into the Bay every day. This wastewater will be redirected to bamboo plantations, which can consume vast quantities of nitrogen and outperform row crops in effluent uptake.

While CARB and Port of Oakland are working hard to improve emissions standards, these reductions and alternative vehicle plans are long-term and costly solutions, and the impact won't be felt for 20-30 years. Bamboo Biofilters are the first-responders to an ecological emergency. Unlike trees, which take 25 years or longer to achieve maximum pollution filtration, within three months bamboo reaches full height and matures in three years. Urban Bamboo Biofilters can provide long-term solutions, or can be used as an intermediary step, remediating degraded soil in preparation for agriculture or restoration.

The creative harnessing of earth’s ecosystem services is the most energy efficient approach to air filtration and wastewater treatment. Biological systems provide an immediately attainable solution to ecological well-being, as no new technological advancements or breakthroughs are needed--terrestrial vegetation is a 400 million year old technology! Communities have been cultivating and harvesting bamboo plantations for hundreds of years, so there is plenty of intellectual capital available. The low cost of implementing Urban Bamboo Biofilters provides a solution for urban air and water remediation that is easily replicable in a broad diversity of disadvantaged and urban communities throughout the world, affected by point-source air contaminants. There are over 1000 species of bamboo from which climate tolerant species or species with specific qualities for end-use purposes can be selected.

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