Selected Projects


Baima Canal Restorer

Fuzhou, China


Fuzhou, a Chinese city of 6 million people, empties its commercial wastewater and sewage into an 80 kilometer network of canals throughout the city before emptying into the Minjiang River. A 600-meter canal named Baima, considered one of the worst in the city, had extreme problems with odor and floating solids created by the influx of 750,000 gallons per day of untreated domestic sewage.

In 2002, John Todd Ecological Design collaborated with Ocean Arks International to design a Restorer on the Baima canal using 12,000 plants composed of 20 native species. Constructed with a walkway down the center, the Restorer has met water quality goals and created a prized recreation area for the members of the community. The Restorer was able to reduce odors, eliminate floating solids, and drastically improve the aesthetics of the neighborhood. The clarity of the water in the canal increased from less than 6 inches to several feet, while meeting several secondary effluent standards.

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The Omega Center Eco-Machine

Rhinebeck, New York

In their search for alternatives to their failing septic/ leach field system, the Omega Center for Sustainable Living in Rhinebeck, NY, sought a solution that would be non-toxic, model cutting-edge sustainable design, and serve to educate the general public on environmentally responsible means of managing resources. To fit this need, John Todd Ecological Design designed and built an Eco-Machine that treats up to 52,000 gallons/day of wastewater for irrigation to a leach field. Treatment is accomplished through a combination of septic and equalization tanks and anoxic tanks, aerated aquatic cells, outdoor wetland and a recirculating sand filter. The Eco-Machine is housed in a state of the art greenhouse that is also used a classroom, event space and yoga studio.

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The National Audubon Society's Corkscrew Swamp

Naples, Florida

Corkscrew Swamp, one of North America’s last remaining old growth cypress swamps, is a magnificent natural attraction. By 1994 attendance surpassed 100,000 visitors a year. The increase in visitors overwhelmed the sanctuary facilities and the inability to handle wastewater from the rest room facilities was an immediate, intolerable, and costly problem. Dr. Todd built an Eco-Machine for Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary that occupies an area of only 70x70 feet, purifies waste without additives, and recycles 90 percent of the purified water back into the restrooms for reuse in the toilets.

Corkscrew Swamp successfully turned their wastewater problem into a tourist attraction and asset. Today, over 20 years later, this system is still operating successfully and has developed into a robust and fascinating ecosystem. The system is so effective at digesting solids that solids have only been removed from the system one time in its lifespan. If you are in the Naples area be sure to visit this incredible swamp attraction and one of Dr. Todd’s longest operating Eco-Machines.

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Grafton Restorer

The Fisherville Mill Canal Restoration Pilot

Grafton, Massachusetts

The Blackstone River flows through what was the heart of the American industrial revolution. Its banks were lined with impoundments, canals and water-powered mills. The Fisherville Canal Restorer is located downstream of long active mill site with a complicated but telling history. In 1999 a huge fire burned it to the ground and left behind toxic rubble on top of an already degraded environment. The site underwent a five-year clean-up effort where much of these materials, including two 20,000 gallon underground oil storage tanks, were removed. What could not be removed was a heavily degraded canal choked with legacy contaminants and canal banks containing high levels of Bunker C. Crude oil, which leaches into the canal with each rain storm. In 2006 an extensive interagency and inter-disciplinary coalition contacted John Todd Ecological Design to see if a version of our Aquatic Restorer technology could be a solution. The Fisherville Canal Restorer is a hybrid of in-stream and side-stream technologies. Taken together they create a powerful circulating loop of healthy ecology, a stream within the stream in which water is purified and the canal is re-seeded with healthy ecology. The system consists of four powerful stages of treatment. The overall purpose of the Eco‐machine is to provide large numbers of beneficial organisms to the canal on a year round basis. It functions as an ecological incubator providing a sufficient density of life forms from the various kingdoms of life to digest the oils and transform the ecology of the canal to a healthier state. The concept of an ecological incubator is new and quite radical, but its potential for water quality improvement is very real. During the system’s first year of operation a reduction of petroleum hydrocarbons in excess of 95 percent was seen throughout the system. Today we are eager to build on this success and expand the project to begin restoring impoundments and degraded water along the entire length of the Blackstone River and its adjoining canals. We are seeking partners and support to help in this mission and have begun joining with local universities to create an educational consortium capable of sustaining and learning from this important work.

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Moskito Island Eco-Machine

British Virgin Islands

Fresh water is a precious and limited resource in the Caribbean. In imaging a model “eco-resort,” Sir Richard Branson needed a system that could not only make the best use of existing waters, but would be highly energy efficient and fit into this tropical paradise. John Todd Ecological Design worked with EcoSolutions and EOS Research to engineer and install the Moskito Island Eco-Machine, a wastewater treatment system designed to treat domestic sewage to a standard suitable for safe non-potable reuse and irrigation. This system is designed for the tropical heat of the British Virgin Islands. Its terraced configuration allows it to be sited on a steep hillside. The Eco-Machine is designed to use a minimum of energetic and chemical inputs and to efficiently treat waste using the power of the sun, gravity, and a diversity of complex engineered ecologies. Here the rich organic matter found in our waste is used as food to fuel the growth of plants, animals, bacteria and fungi throughout the treatment system. A cartridge filter and ultra-violet sterilization unit ensure that water is free from pathogens and safe for human contact. The resulting treated effluent is stored onsite to be re-used for irrigation.

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Tyson Foods Wastewater Lagoon Restorers

Berlin, Maryland

Before consulting with the John Todd Ecological Design team and Ocean Arks International in 2001, the Maryland Environmental Protection Agency levied several fines against Tyson’s poultry processing facility in Berlin, Maryland. Effluent from the Tyson lagoon was frequently out of compliance with EPA standards and was unfit to discharge into Chincoteague Bay, a local fishing and shellfishing area. With the help of John Todd’s Aquatic Restorers, Tyson Foods Inc. turned their sludge-filled lagoon into a thriving ecosystem and compliant wastewater treatment site. Aquatic Restorers were installed to work in collaboration with existing traditional treatment elements. The result was a 95% reduction of contaminants, 70% reduction in energy use, 20% reduction in sludge production, and a discharge that complied with Maryland’s open water effluent parameters. 25,000 native plants were chosen to create a balanced and complex aquatic ecosystem to provide habitat for a variety of microbial communities, all of which perform a unique function in the waste treatment process.

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City of South Burlington Municipal Eco-Machine

South Burlington, Vermont


Built with a grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency, the South Burlington Eco-Machine demonstrated high performance even in very cold temperatures. On a daily basis, the sewage typically generated by 1,200 residents at 80,000 gallons, was diverted from the city’s conventional waste treatment plant to the Eco Machine. The South Burlington Eco-Machine was built in late 1995 by Living Technologies Inc. and Dr. John Todd with Ocean Arks International undertaking scientific oversight. Inside the greenhouse, the system used several stages to achieve stable nutrient removal. The site served as an educational center for local schools and resembled a local garden center more than a waste treatment facility. Designed to achieve stable nutrient removal, this EcoMachine was cost competitive, alternative treatment to a conventional system. With its aesthetic beauty and lack of offensive odor, this system is compatible with a residential environment. The South Burlington Eco-Machine was also used as a teaching tool for many different schools and universities in the region. Elementary through high school science students toured the facility for first hand lessons on ecology, engineering, and environmental stewardship. University students were given more involved assignments in the intricacies of each ecosystem, and research applications. The facility provided many students the opportunity to work in and around this innovative system.

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Darrow School Eco-Machine

New Lebanon, New York

In the mid 1990’s Darrow School administrators were seeking a cost-effective, environmentally friendly solution to their failing septic system. They decided to invest in an Eco-Machine to meet their wastewater needs. The Eco-Machine and the Samson Environmental Center, which officially opened in 1998, are the most visible embodiments of Darrow’s commitment to sustainability. Using the energy cycling of an aquatic ecosystem as a model, the Eco-Machine treats 8,500 gallons per day of wastewater from school dorms and other campus buildings before returning the water to the Hudson River watershed. In this alternative system, nature’s “processors”—a diversity of microorganisms, snails, oxygen, fish, and higher plants—are used to break down and digest organic pollutants. For a portion of its energy requirements, the Eco-Machine utilizes photovoltaic panels and gravity as renewable sources. In addition to processing the school’s wastewater, the Eco-Machine provides a setting for a wide variety of educational activities. Students routinely monitor levels of bacteria, phosphorous, nitrogen, and other biological and chemical levels as well as observing and maintaining plant life which grows in the aquatic treatment tanks throughout the facility. Since its opening in 1998, the Samson Environmental Center has been visited by more than 500 guests a year wanting to learn more about environmentally responsible solutions to wastewater treatment. Educational, corporate, and environmental groups have explored the center and have used it as a resource for their own investigations and studies.

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Vietnam Veteran's Memorial Rest Stop Eco-Machine

Sharon, Vermont

In the mid-1990’s, the Sharon rest area was threatened with being shut down because of problems with sewage drainage. The rest area is sited in isolated area with poor soils and rock ledges making the site unsuitable for septic and leachfields. There was also no nearby municipal system to accept sewage.

A coalition of veterans lobbied Governor Howard Dean and Vermont legislature to spare the rest area which is also the site of Vermont’s Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial. A few years earlier, Eco-Machine had been installed at the nearby Guilford, VT rest area and the State of Vermont, impressed with the solution, decided that an Eco-Machine was the answer to the Sharon rest area’s pressing need for onsite wastewater treatment. The Eco-Machine solution was also in line with Vermont’s ethic of environmental stewardship.

John Todd, along with John Todd Ecological Design’s partner company, Living Technologies, designed and constructed the Eco-Machine for the Sharon rest area. Sewage from the rest area is treated to Vermont's reuse standards. ~77% of treated water is dyed blue recycled as flush water in the toilets. Flows fluctuated with seasonal and weekend use.

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