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Earth systems, when understood and respected, have the intrinsic capability to be instrumental for sustainable international development. If applied wisely without sophisticated technology, natural processes themselves can serve to sustain and prosper life in specific situations. Global initiatives to provide safe surface and groundwater are booming, but a parallel emphasis on sustainable sanitation is lagging, leaving 2.5 billion people without access to improved sanitation. Many technically sophisticated sanitation systems exist but are beyond the means of those same billions. The Water and Sewage Transformation Endeavor (W.A.S.T.E.) is a program at Wheaton College (Wheaton, Illinois) bringing together undergraduate students and faculty from various natural and social sciences to address the global need for improved sanitation. The goal of the program is to develop a low-tech wastewater treatment system for the Global South and beyond. A laboratory-scale waste stabilization pond system was constructed and studied to compare its effectiveness at reducing biological oxygen demand (BOD), as an indicator of pathogen disinfection, by varying light intensity, temperature, and detention time. The system with the highest light intensity and temperature and longest detention time performed the best, achieving 95% total BOD reduction. The project time line includes phase 1 indoor experimentation, phase 2 installation and operation of an outdoor pilot system, and the final phase 3 development of training programs for deployment of the technology into areas of need. The overall program has already proven to be an excellent educational opportunity for undergraduate students. It will ideally benefit many other student practitioners, and local trainees at candidate sites.

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