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A new shade of gray: Paul Mitchell school starts recycling gray water

Hairwashing They cut and color, wash and rinse -- and send hundreds of gallons of soapy water down the drain each day. Now the  270 students at the new Paul Mitchell the School in Costa Mesa send the wastewater generated from their classwork to a filtration system that purifies 500 gallons of spent water daily and reuses it to flush the school's toilets. 

"We have all sorts of green initiatives in place, but this is the biggest and coolest thing we're doing," said Cynthia Butler, director of the 14,700-square-foot campus that opened last month in the SoCo Shopping Center.

In addition to repurposing the wastewater from its wash sinks and laundry room with a gray water recycling system, Butler said the new school runs a recycling program that benefits a reforestry campaign and also uses less energy-intensive LED lighting to reduce CO2 emissions.

Designed by Gray Water Recycling Systems in Redondo Beach, the school's gray water system is the first to be used at a Paul Mitchell school. It is designed to divert 400,000 gallons of wastewater each year from the sewer, and, as a result, to reduce the need to import fresh water for toilet flushing.

Once the city of Costa Mesa approves the quality of its treated gray water, the school hopes to use its excess gray water to irrigate the shopping center grounds.

According to Buzz Boettcher, who designed the gray water system, the wastewater from the school's wash sinks and laundry room is filtered with silica, anthracite coal and activated carbon. It is then disinfected with UV light and a copper ionization process that kills algae and bacteria without the use of chemicals. The hair products used at the school, Butler says, are all biodegradable.

-- Susan Carpenter

Photo: Carlos Chavez / Los Angeles Times

 
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