Dr. A. Robert “Bob" Rubin is an emeritus professor and former extension specialist in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at North Carolina State University. He spent more than a quarter century there doing research, teaching and public service. He’s testified before Congress, spoken to international meetings of researchers and policy experts and been honored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for his service. He was kind enough to talk to us about the changes he’s seen in the last 30-plus years in wastewater treatment and what he expects in the coming years.
Changing demographics and lifestyles are producing greater strains on water treatment systems and could threaten water quality. Surprised? It’s true. And we’re not just talking about the strain of a growing population.
Since the 1970s, the amount of food consumed at restaurants or purchased from take-out spots has increased dramatically. And with that, comes more commercial kitchen wastewater entering the sewers.
A 2006 USDA study, for example, found that from the 1970s to the 1990s, the percent of daily calories from meals purchased away from home increased from 18 percent to 32 percent. And from 1974 to 2004, away-from-home spending grew from 34 percent of total food dollars to about half of all food expenditures.