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Bacteria to the rescue

An Arroyo Grande company produces a novel approach to neutralizing hazardous waste water



PROUD PAPA :  Glenn Wensloff built a BioReactor for Chumia Wineyards in Paso Robles. - PHOTO COURTESY OF GLENN WENSLOFF
  • PROUD PAPA : Glenn Wensloff built a BioReactor for Chumia Wineyards in Paso Robles.
Winemakers are not so innocent as they’d like you to think: Their business produces waste. Lots of it. To make 10,000 cases, a winery will release 1,000 gallons of wastewater per day during crush—water that eventually goes into the ground. The wastewater is contaminated with concentrated sugars, particulates, and carries little oxygen: deadly to fish and organisms in the soil. Areas dense with wineries would be ruined if the wastewater were improperly treated.

Fortunately, laws forbid wineries and other such agricultural producers as strawberry farmers from releasing untreated wastewater. Wineries for many years have employed large, shallow ponds where the sugar-rich wine waste is treated in a way similar to the process used by big municipal sewage systems, and then dumped underground through long perforated tubes.

Glenn Wensloff of Elutriate Systems of Arroyo Grande has a different process. According to him, the conventional wastewater treatment process at wineries is misapplied to a liquid that is sugar-rich, which can cause slime growth that clogs the systems. He distinguished his method this way: “It’s more of a simple distribution, not a digestion process.”

The Cal Poly mechanical engineering graduate started Elutriate Systems in the late ’90s. The company manufactures BioReactors: self-contained systems within big plastic above-ground tanks, which use beneficial bacteria to consume the sugars. The bacteria convert the wastewater into a nutrient-rich “compost tea” that can then be spread by sprayers or drippers onto farmland. The BioReactors occupy much less area than conventional treatment systems and their motors require less power, according to Wensloff. Moreover, the “tea” can reduce or eliminate the need for fertilizers and pesticides. Several local wineries use BioReactors, and PG&E is sponsoring the installation of some versions that are even more energy efficient.

Wensloff contends his systems improve wineries’ biodynamic practices, something area producers are keen to accomplish, considering the stringent Sustainablity In Practice certification many seek. Call the company at 474-9390.

Fast Facts

SLOsteps, a community 5-k walk to benefit Congregation Beth David and CAPSLO Homeless Services, will start at the congregation on Sunday, April 18, at 11 a.m. Lunch, a raffle, children’s activities, and other entertainment for the family will round out the experience. For more information regarding the entry fees, sponsorship opportunities, and registration call 544-0760. …

SLO Regional Rideshare offers a Summer Break Pass to encourage K-12 students to use public transit throughout the county. The $30 discounted bus pass is good from Memorial Day through Labor Day. See or call 781-4462. …

Marina Garza and Marian Willingham, both licensed marriage and family therapists, have combined in private practice in San Luis Obispo at 1022 Mill St. Garza specializes in emotional issues stemming from domestic and family violence, relief from post-traumatic stress disorder, and counseling military families. Garza is bilingual. Willingham specializes in parental alienation syndrome, recovery work for couples, anger management, and substance abuse. She integrates hypnosis, dream analysis, sand-tray therapy, and other techniques.
Call 909-2057 for Willingham and 550-8940 for Garza
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The Gypsy Pyrates, a local Renaissance guild, is holding a fundraising raffle to help support “SurviveOARS,” a Dragon Boat race team for women breast cancer survivors who compete in festivals and races, attend training clinics, and help increase awareness of survival and recovery. Get raffle tickets for $1 each (six for $5) at the April 20 Princess Bride showing at the Fremont, 1025 Monterey, SLO. The raffle starts at 6:30; doors open at 7 to a costume contest and raffle. The movie ($7.50 tickets) starts around 7:30. Info:, 474-0558, or Gypsy …

The Family Care Network’s seventh annual Miracle Miles for Kids Walk/Run will take place on April 17 with registration starting at 6 a.m. at Morro Rock. The 10-k course skirts the shore to the Cayucos Pier. There’ll be a post-race party with live music and lunch. Every participant will receive a goody bag and an event T-shirt. For more information visit or call 781-3535.

Contributing writer Gene Gisin compiled Strokes & Plugs this week. Send your business and nonprofit news to

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