Meet the Storyfest Finalists: Jesse Gurney

Meet the Storyfest Finalists: Jesse Gurney
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Colleges & Education

Jesse Gurney is a senior at The George Washington University majoring in communication and international affairs with a concentration in conflict resolution. Jesse heard of Planet Forward’s Storyfest 2016 contest in his “introduction to digital media” course with Dr. Cheers, who is also the educational partnerships coordinator for Planet Forward. For his submission, Jesse created a video that focused on biosolids.

We asked him a few questions to learn more about his entry.

Q: Describe this innovation for those who have never heard of it.

A: Thousands of wastewater treatment plants around North American turn wastewater (what we flush) into class B biosolids, which essentially is fertilizer-made-from-poop that is too poisonous to be used in cities and can only be used in farms. A handful of wastewater treatment plants turn wastewater into class A biosolids, which is fertilizer-made-from-poop that is not poisonous and can be used in both cities and farms. DC Water’s innovation is becoming the first wastewater treatment plant in North America to install the Cambi thermal hydrolysis process. This process uses wastewater to create power and class A biosolids without a composting step, allowing for biosolids to go straight from the plant to the ground. By eliminating the composting step, DC water decreases very significant transportation and energy costs while increasing the amount of biosolids it is able to produce.

Q: Why did you choose to communicate your innovation through this video format?

A: Video is an effective method of communication the innovation of biosolids, because the medium helps the reader view the steps that biosolids have to go through and adds flavor to an otherwise boring subject.

Q: Why is this innovation so important to you? Why do you think it is one of the most essential methods to help sustainable cities?

A: While seemingly simple, the Cambi thermal hydrolysis is an essential method to helping sustainable cities. The UN estimates that by 2050 70% of the human population will be living in cities. This number becomes problematic, because urban soils lack nutrients and are not opportune for agriculture. With many residents and decreasing spaces for agriculture, city dwellers will have to start producing their food locally. The Cambi thermal hydrolysis provides a method to not only recycle wastewater but also turn the wastewater into the highest-quality fertilizer that can be reused in the community, helping localize cities’ agricultural efforts while decreasing the amount of food that cities have to ship-in.


(Editor’s note: Answers edited for grammar and spelling.)

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