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If you go to Baltimore this summer,you might see a strange looking machine strolling slowly in the Harbor. This machine is called the Inner Harbor Water Wheel and its main task is to clean up the trash that gets thrown into the water.Powered by 30 solar panels and the water current, the wheel is able to remove approximately 50,000 pounds of trash per day. It’s estimated that the wheel will stay in use for at least 15 years and by 2020 the harbor will become clean enough to be used for recreational purposes.
The wheel was invented by John Kellett and it works as follow: two orange booms help funnel debris towards the Wheel, where trash is intercepted and pushed it onto a moving conveyer belt which empties out into a 16 yard dumpster, located on top of a floating dock. Once the dumpster is full, the dock is detached, hooked up to a boat, and then taken to a RESCO waste-to-energy plant, where the trash is incinerated and turned into electrical energy. The incredible machine has also a secondary use which is to put more oxygen into the water through the rotation of the waterwheel. It helps to attract more fish and improve habitat conditions and water quality. . As a project of the Healthy Harbor Living Laboratory, the Water Wheel also serves to educate people about storm-water management and the Inner Harbor.
The important element about the wheel is the material used. In fact Galvanizing was chosen as a coating because of its sustainability and its reaction to a constant contact with water. Galvanized steel has a very high resistance to humidity but also doeasn’t require costly maintenance over the next 15 years. Another factor was keeping down maintenance costs to a project that already cost over $800,000 to put together.