ROBERTS, Wis. -- All eyes will be on the Village of Roberts as they become the first municipality in the country to implement revolutionary new technology in an effort to clean water of phosphorus.

“This is the first full-scale installation of this application in the world essentially,” said Autumn Fisher, regional director of Project Delivery with CLEARAS Water Recovery Inc.

Roberts is one of the first Wisconsin municipalities that must to conform to the new stringent phosphorus standard of less than 0.04 mg/l imposed by the Department of Natural Resources. According to the village’s Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit, the new limit must be met by Dec. 31, 2020.

“Given the state of Wisconsin’s emphasis on water quality, the village of Roberts set out to identify and implement a sustainable solution that could meet both our current and future, anticipated regulatory requirements,” said John Bond, Public Works director.

The village entered into a $3.6 million contract with CLEARAS Water Recovery out Missoula, Mont., to implement the Advanced Biological Nutrient Recovery system in a “bolt-on” application to the existing wastewater treatment facility.

Village Board members and staff joined representatives from CLEARAS and partner organizations at a groundbreaking ceremony Monday, Oct. 7.

Roberts Village Board and staff join representatives from CLEARAS and partner organizations breaking ground Monday, Oct. 7, 2019,  at the wastewater treatment facility. Pictured are (from row, from left: John Bond, Roberts Public Works director; Katy Kapaun, trustee; Cheryl Johnson, trustee; Willard Moeri, Village Board president; Ed Coggin, Weston Solutions' Jordan Lind, CLEARAS Water Recovery CEO; Mary Shemon, trustee; Megan Abbott, Weston Solutions engineer; (middle) Glenn Hall, assistant fire chief; Paul Mahler, village attorney; Chuck Pizzi, trustee; Scott Mulinix, Boerger Pumps; Rich Knoelkek, Mulcahy Shaw Water; Autumn Fisher, CLEARAS Water Recovery regional director; Chris Holmes, Public Works; Brian Anderson, Public Works; (back) Lance Crain, Weston Solution; and Jason Taylor, Albrightson Excavating. Tom Lindfors/ RiverTown Multimedia
Roberts Village Board and staff join representatives from CLEARAS and partner organizations breaking ground Monday, Oct. 7, 2019, at the wastewater treatment facility. Pictured are (from row, from left: John Bond, Roberts Public Works director; Katy Kapaun, trustee; Cheryl Johnson, trustee; Willard Moeri, Village Board president; Ed Coggin, Weston Solutions' Jordan Lind, CLEARAS Water Recovery CEO; Mary Shemon, trustee; Megan Abbott, Weston Solutions engineer; (middle) Glenn Hall, assistant fire chief; Paul Mahler, village attorney; Chuck Pizzi, trustee; Scott Mulinix, Boerger Pumps; Rich Knoelkek, Mulcahy Shaw Water; Autumn Fisher, CLEARAS Water Recovery regional director; Chris Holmes, Public Works; Brian Anderson, Public Works; (back) Lance Crain, Weston Solution; and Jason Taylor, Albrightson Excavating. Tom Lindfors/ RiverTown Multimedia

The anticipated timeline for the project calls for construction to begin immediately and for the new technology to be operational by spring 2020.



CLEARAS’ proprietary technology leverages algae’s biological benefits in a carefully controlled and continuous flow environment that removes nitrogen, phosphorus and other harmful nutrients found in industrial water discharge and wastewater effluent.

The system uses algae and photosynthesis to remove phosphorus and other nutrients, solids and heavy metals from municipal wastewater to a level that exceeds the stringent levels imposed by the DNR while providing a revenue stream from the sale of a desirable medical grade plastic produced as a by-product of the algae process.

How it works

Phosphorus and nitrogen loaded wastewater is inoculated with a mixture of algae and other microorganisms creating the mixture flow. That flow enters the photobioreactor (PBR), which promotes photosynthesis where phosphorus, nitrogen and carbon dioxide are rapidly consumed by the algae. Photo submitted
Phosphorus and nitrogen loaded wastewater is inoculated with a mixture of algae and other microorganisms creating the mixture flow. That flow enters the photobioreactor (PBR), which promotes photosynthesis where phosphorus, nitrogen and carbon dioxide are rapidly consumed by the algae. Photo submitted

Phosphorus and nitrogen loaded wastewater is inoculated with a mixture of algae and other microorganisms creating the mixture flow. That flow enters the photobioreactor, which promotes photosynthesis where phosphorus, nitrogen and carbon dioxide are rapidly consumed by the algae. The wastewater, now significantly reduced of nutrients and other constituents, is fed through a filter membrane which separates out the algae and other microorganisms , resulting in an oxygenated clean water stream for discharge or reuse.

A portion of this biomass stream cycles back to the mix stage as returned activated algae to sustain the photosynthesis process. The other portion of the biomass stream is “dewatered,” producing a plant-based biomaterial co-product that can be sold into diversified markets including plastics, foams, feeds, and soil enhancements creating a residual income stream for the village.

The Roberts facility is currently designed to feed 150,000 gallons per day with an average total phosphorus influent level of 1.24mg/L. The new DNR concentration standard is less than.0.04 mg/L, but anticipated average effluent phosphorus level after ABNR processing is 0.002 mg/L. The ABNR system is expected to generate approximately 400 pounds of algae biomaterial each day or 73,000 pounds a year..

“We are thrilled to have met this key milestone and look forward to the day when the facility is producing extremely high quality water while generating algae biomaterial, which provides a long‐term recurring income stream to the village of Roberts. The leadership and vision of the village president, council and staff have been instrumental in getting to this point,” said Jordan Lind, CEO of CLEARAS Water Recovery.

“ABNR performed exceptionally well in pilot studies, met our criteria of bolting on to existing infrastructure and proved to be a more competitive total cost of ownership over time than other alternatives. We are eager to get the project constructed and operating by the spring-summer of 2020,” Bond said.

To learn more about the Roberts project and CLEARAS Water Recovery, visit the website at clearaswater.com/village-of-roberts-wisconsin.