Reclamator inventor sues water resources establishment

October 31, 2008
Tom Murphy demonstrates several elements of his Reclamator invention.

Tom Murphy demonstrates several elements of his Reclamator invention.


Tom Murphy is not a patient man, but he is immensely optimistic.

Murphy scoffed brusquely at questions about whether his sewage-treatment invention, the Reclamator, really works, and suggested the machine’s capability is a foregone conclusion. And he’ll be putting the validity of his claim to the test in court as he takes on the entire governmental water resources infrastructure with an ambitious lawsuit filed Oct. 24 in San Francisco’s U.S. District Court.

Harvey Packard, enforcement coordinator for the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, said he thinks Murphy’s interpretation of federal law “is completely wrong, misguided. He’s the only person in the United States who reads federal law that way.”

Packard added, “No one has ever tried to find out if his [Murphy’s] claims have any merit. No one does any analysis of that.”

The Nevada-based Murphy owns a residence in Los Osos where his own Reclamator is installed. His system is working fine, he told a reporter as he demonstrated several of its sequential operations. But it’s doing only part of the job it is designed to do, and not because of any technological limitation, Murphy wryly noted. It’s because of what he termed selective enforcement on behalf of special interests, with self-serving interpretation of existing water law.

Murphy can treat his own water all he wants. But he can’t use it. He must dump it into the town’s storm runoff system. Regulations, you know.

And therein lays the story of how this pending David and Goliath confrontation got to the point of presenting a legitimate legal threat to deeply-entrenched national, state, regional, and local water resources bureaucracies.

In the event you’ve been living in a black bag for the past few decades, Los Osos is a bedroom community in San Luis Obispo County stubbornly clinging to vestiges of the past, with aging and leaky septic systems serving residences, businesses, and public buildings. A long-ensuing battle waged by water quality regulators against property owners in the town of 15,000 is expected to result in construction of an increasingly-expensive sewer system. But the conflict, despite its longevity, may be far from over.

That’s because a final decision to build a large-scale public works project, such as a sewer system, now must be made amid technological advances that eventually may make dinosaurs of sewers and appurtenant collection and treatment facilities, such as the costly “state of the art” one proposed by advocates of the Los Osos sewer. Until that time, however, benefactors of the status quo must struggle mightily to maintain their currently superior position as the world changes around them. There’s a lot of money involved; the Los Osos sewer system has an estimated price tag of $250 million.

Innovative onsite systems, however, are being developed that not only comply with water quality requirements, but often improve that water quality to the point of creating potable water from raw sewage. Murphy unhesitatingly credits his Reclamator with doing all of that better than anything else yet developed.

The point, Murphy snarled, is that regulators will be out of a job if they do not figure out a way to continue their unlawful appropriation of effluent water.

“I buy the water I use for my residence,” said Murphy. “But the way it’s set up now, the regulators just let me use it, and then they take it without compensating me.” All consumers pay for water disposed of through a sewer system. But that water, Murphy emphasized, maintains its value and provides a source of revenue for whatever public agency is running the sewer system. And that, he says, is simply theft and fraud, because his system produces pure, drinkable water which could be reused or resold by its purchaser.

Tom Murphy has sued a variety of water entities for ignoring his water treatment invention, the Reclamator.

Tom Murphy has sued a variety of water entities for ignoring his water treatment invention, the Reclamator.

It’s not a matter of whether these new systems actually work, according to some state officials. At issue is whether those state officials have approved the system. And no onsite system has been approved for use in Los Osos.

Technologically-advanced onsite treatment systems, installed by property owners, are “threatening the need for big public works projects and ultimately the [Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board’s] very existence [and it] is on a mission to prove that it is far more interested in ‘water control’ than ‘water quality,’” wrote the editors of a South County Web site, “Without the ability to regulate emerging onsite technologies, the water board would eventually run out of pollution to fine and to prosecute… and become the Maytag repairman of the new millennium.”

Mark Low, a partner in the Reclamator’s parent company, AES DES, reiterated that charge.

“The board only wants to control the water, no matter the eventual cost to the people they are supposed to serve,” he said. Low said he believes the entrenched water establishment has “way too much to lose” if onsite systems like the Reclamator are allowed.

Murphy’s lawsuit names as plaintiffs the federal Environmental Protection Agency; the state of California; the California EPA; the State Water Resources Control Board; the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board; the county of San Luis Obispo; and the Los Osos Community Services District.

At its core, the claim alleges that “water Murphy purchased with the understanding that he had right of 100 percent beneficial competitive use, and now is deprived of the right to exercise a practice of water conservation by reuse or recycling of his water.” In other words, he wants to be able to use or sell the water his invention has reclaimed.

Murphy alleges in his lawsuit that regulators from the federal level on down are continuing a conspiracy to “prevent AES from doing business nationally [by] providing the best available pollutant discharge elimination technology currently available.

The water board’s Packard said Murphy “has never asked the county for a permit to use the water he’s treating [onsite]. It’s a bit of a stretch to me.”

The action will commence with an effort at mediation at a time to be announced.

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By: LHC on 7/23/09

This is too funny. For any of you that want to see how this scam ran in another town just do a search of Lake Havasu City and Tom Murphy. He ran the same deal. He even had a ballot measure initiated that was turned down by the voters and then was court ordered to remove his system he installed on his girlfriends property. It took 2 years to run him out of town. He is very persistent so good luck to you all. LHC is glad he moved on.

By: judith on 11/13/08

Oh great. Now little Tommy has learned how to post under another name ("Truth"). Still the same old twaddle, though. Still not president of AES,inc. either. He would get more comments to his rantings, though, if he posted on Ann Calhoun's blog, which is mostly Los Osos opinions. This blog appears to be mostly north county topics.

By: Truth on 11/12/08

What is all the fighting about? It appears to me this Murphy guy is providing a win / win to every homeowner in Los Osos! We all talk about being green and saving the environment then someone comes along that has a revolutionary solution and you are fighting him like horse traders fought the invention of the automobile! Even the regulatory officials can't say it doesn't work BECAUSE IT DOES AND HE HAS PROVED IT. He spent $150,000 to have it certified and validated by the National Sanitation Foundation in March of 1994 and retested and validated by a local independent laboratory, Creekside Laboratory in San Luis this past July 2008.

-Saves every homeowner in Los Osos $75,000 plus in comparison to the sewer

-Saves Los Osos community approximately 1,000,000 gallons of precious water per day for reuse

-Immediately stops the pollution upon installation and gets the water board and the fines off your backs

-Saves the homes of all those people who will lose them if they have to come up with $100,000 +

-Saves your streets from being ripped up and your businesses disrupted

-Would make you the FIRST COMMUNITY IN OUR NATION to go green and implement incredible saving saving technology becoming "sewer exempt"

-Would make your property values go up without the costly sewer hanging over your heads

WHERE IS THE DOWNSIDE PLEASE TELL ME? And you continue to fight the very guy who is saving your butts like a bunch of farmers with pitchforks!

Where are YOUR public officials who are supposed to be helping you!!!! Oh wait a minute they are fighting Murphy too. Do you think it might have something to do with the $125 million, plus $600 annual revenue they would lose if the sewer doesn't happen?

Want to hear the cool part? I have researched the federal law myself and it says YOU HAVE TO PRETREAT your sewage before it goes into the sewer, so you have to use this scary new technology anyway, but once you do, you have no sewage…no sewage no sewer…freaky huh?

Yeah, I see how it makes perfect sense to choose the sewer so keep up the fight…

The lights are on but nobody is home. If I lived in Los Osos I would be using his technology and thanking him for saving me over $75,000 and letting me keep my water…but that's just me.

By: Tom on 11/9/08


Discharge contains pollutants. If it is pure water, there is NO DISCHAGE.

Secondly, the RWQCB has no authority 1) if there are NO pollutants, i.e. waste in the water (which the RECLAMATOR doesn't have), and 2) the RWQCB has no authority on private property.

You are sooooo confused.

Finally, all better get used to the RECLAMATORService as it will be the solution for Los Osos…..shortly.

By: Booty_Juice on 11/7/08

Tom, thank you for clearing up any doubt, if there ever was any, about your capacity for rational thought.

Los Osos and you richly deserve each other.

By: judith on 11/7/08

So you're saying the State of Nevada's website is wrong? It plainly states that Jean Murphy is president, treasurer, etc. No mention of Tom Murphy. This is why no one in Osos believes anything you say.

By: Tom on 11/7/08

I am having a real hard time trying to figure out "why you folks want to do sewage". Please explain.

The RECLAMATOR repurifies 100% of all water used in any domestic building to "PURE"….did I say "PURE" water?

Do you folks realize how ignorant you appear poo poing this in this time of drought which is projected to last 90 years?

What about our future generations?

What about cleaning up our water resources?

What about eliminating 100% of all pollutants at your home and reclaimeing ALL your water to become sustainable?

What about "no environmental impact" don't you get?

What about going "GREEN" don't you get?

Why would ANYONE want a "sewer"?

Why would ANYONE want to PAY a public entity to take your water away?

Density ISN'T an issue when you no longer "discharge pollutants, i.e. waste". Density is only an issue when pollutants are discharged.

What don't you folks get about a new household appliance that "eliminates sewage flows" entirely….forever?

NOT the President of AES, Inc.??? Give me a break judith.

One last clarification. Mark Low was never a partner of AES, Inc., which is the "mother company". AES DES, the entity Mark Low had an opportunity to be a part of, is no longer in the picture…just like Mark Low.

Finally, if any of you would like to see the RECLAMATOR in operation (since March), I would be glad to show you at my home at 1408 Las Encinas. It's a thing of "beauty"! If any of you wish to become informed, please visit my home page to click on and read the Federal Complaint, it is going to make history. NOTE: Just pass over the first few pages to get to the claim.

By: Tom on 11/7/08

Stupid is stupid does…and also "says". Knowledg is power. Some of you folks would be well served to "read" the federal complaint….and gain some "knowledge". In this case, ignorance is NOT bliss but only defines a FOOL.

Churadogs really needs to understand the meaning of "discharge". The RECLAMATOR does not discharge.

Proven..tested? DONE!

$25,000 price tag? What does it matter to you? It is the ONLY soluton which qualifies for federal grants, which means we all get our money BACK. A sewer doesn't qualify for grants and will cost at least 3-5 times, not to mention, federal pretreatment requirements MUST be complied with, i.e. you will have to have the RECLAMATOR ANYWAY. Time to get used to it, like it or not…it is the law.

By: George on 11/7/08

Measure R passed in SF,show some class Osos name the sewage plant after our soon to be former Vice President! The sooner the better.

By: rack-n-blurb on 11/6/08

Booty Juice,

What are you, twelve? Los Grossos, Attrashcadero, San Luis Abysmal, Caypukas…is that enough? I know what you are but what am I?

I find it amusing that some have an image of Los Osos as a third world country with open sewage running down the road. Keep on thinking that and go build a Walmart in your one street town. Now that is progress!

By: Use_it_or_Lose_it on 11/5/08

Booty Juice. You have good ideas and great passion. Please clean up the language. References to juvenile sexual practices and bodily functions belong back in grade school.

This website has the potential to generate community involvement from those less than 18 years of age. Why not be a leader to them?

By: Booty_Juice on 11/5/08

The endless, multi decade circle jerk that Los Grossans have engaged in has plunged them to the depth to where consuming their own sh*t filtered piss appears to be an actractive option.

That many of them are either unconcerned about that or in denial of it speaks volumes to the fact that they should not be trusted with public money or the responsibility of complying with state law.

Nobody, not even God, cares if everyone in Los Grossos is reduced to a diet of sh*t cakes with piss chasers. They probably do that now anyway.

By: Churadogs on 11/5/08

A few key points re Murphy's Reclamator:

1. Due to the Regional Water Quality Control Board's 83-13 prohibition resolution, there will be ZERO "discharges" allowed in the Los Osos PZ without a permit. The permit is issued by the RWQCB.(do you see the Hobson's Choice set up here already? Good.)

2. The RWQCB defines "discharge," defines the limits of what's allowed in the "discharge" permit, sets testing standards and requirements & etc.for the "discharge." (Is this little game becoming clear now?)

3.Even IF the Reclamator actually did "discharge" absolutely pure drinking water, (and to my knowledge Murphy hasn't submitted any long term testing results) the RWQCB could still require daily (hourly?) testing at a certified lab (ka-ching$, ka-ching$), for example, which would push the cost of the reclamator waaaaaayyyyyy beyond even the extraordinarily high cost of the county's proposed traditional community wide collection and treatment system.

In short, the RWQCB is like Humpty Dumpty in Alice in Wonderland who notes that when HE uses a word, it means exactly what he says it shall mean, neither mor nor less, Sniff!snort! So, the RWQCB can set ANY standards and requirements for a "dischage" within the PZ so they effectively can control any and all systems simply by setting certain requirements.

For folks who understand that Big Pipe can be soooo 19th century, for folks interested in new, innnovative, "greener" ways of dealing with water and wastewater, it's not the technology that will be the problem. It's the Regulators. And anyone who sat through the Mad Hatter Tea Party and Auto de Fe Kangaroo Court that was the CDO/ACL hearings of the happless Los Osos 45 (45 citizems randomly singled out for "prosecution,") and watched Dr. Wickham clean the RWQCB (staff and board)'s clock vis a vis their proposed Mad Septic Pumping Scheme, would have been left with ZERO confidence in the scientific and technical expertise of this RWQCB. Zip. Zero. Nada.

Yet they retain the legal power to do pretty much anything they wish to dream up — science need not apply. So pray for the citizens.

Oh, and the RWQCB recently held stealth hearings to expand their control over the water basin throughout the county. Betcha folks out in Paso didn't know about those new regs, did ya? You'll see.


By: rack-n-blurb on 11/4/08

Tom Murphy told me that he is on a mission from God. So all we need is to get the band back together.

By: paperboy on 11/3/08

It never made sense to me to retrofit a whole sewer system into a town that is already built out the way Los Osos is. Sewer pipes should rightly go in at the beginning of a town or subdivision.

The county of SLO is 100 percent responsible for this sewer mess. The water board told the county in the late 1970s to put a sewer system in Los Osos back when the town was well under 10,000 people and the federal government was paying 80 percent of the costs.

The county said, sure we'll get right on that, and handed out building permits like Halloween candy, while not doing anything about the sewer.

In 1983, the water board said you didn't do a sewer so here's a cease and desist order. And by this time the federal money dried up under Ronald Reagan's no-more-free-lunch BS.

The county responded by handing out building permits like Halloween candy until 1988, when the water board handed down its sewer based moratorium. Suddenly, with a moratorium hanging over its head, the county started working – half-heartedly – on a sewer project, that was then derailed by the know-it-alls in Los Osos who thought they knew better than the professional engineers and planners working on the project.

The community spent a decade discussing various options and technologies, all the while the costs were increasing from an original $32 million in the early 80s, to $42 million by the early 1990s, then $52 million, $64 million, $72 million and $80 million by the end of the 1990s when the new CSD decided to take over the project and do its own thing. And by the time the CSD got back bids, the price tag was $116 million with residents having to pay all of that (with the help of a low interest state loan).

Of course the water board wouldn't let the CSD do the project it wanted, so they returned to the county's old standard style sewer project and started fighting with their own constituents to force it into the downtown site.

Naturally, that led to a successful 2005 recall and the decision to stop construction of the project, after contracts had been signed with the state and the contractors. That move led to bankruptcy and the current sad state of affairs.

As for Tom Murphy, I believe his device probably works as he says but that's not his problem. He's like a jail house lawyer. He knows just enough to sound convincing and be dangerous.

It's true the federal clean water act requires ''best available technology'' be used to mitigate environmental impacts. But Tom Murphy doesn't get to say what BAT is. For his device to be accepted, he has to have it tested and confirmed by someone who is both independent and trustworthy and then accepted by the government regulators. That isn't likely to happen if he's in court suing them and trying to get rich.

I've always thought there must be some kind of gizmo that would could attach to the septic tank to filter the water before it goes into the leach field. That to me seems the more logical way to approach this issue. At least better than tearing up every street in town and retrofitting a massive sewer system.

Imagine all the problems it's going to cause tearing into the sandy soils under the streets and hitting who knows what gas or water pipeline. When the CSD broke ground in 2005, they hit a water main that wasn't where the county's maps said it should be and flooded out four homes.

And that was on the first trench they tried to dig. Murphy is indeed nutty as a fruitcake if he thinks he's going to win this case. People in Los Osos should not be taken in with his arguments.

By: mccdave on 11/3/08

The irony got even deeper in Los Osos a few years ago when the sewer project was blocked by the new LOCSD board: this turn of events happened to coincide with the biggest run-up in property values in the history of the universe, which still hasn't been completely reversed. Property owners were whining about the cost of the assessment when they could more than pay for it with the newfound equity in their home that god, Alan Greenspan and the property bubble had dropped on them from heaven.

But I guess most Los Osites had already tapped their home equity lines of credit to buy lotto tickets, Prozac and sweaters in their never ending fight against the effects of perpetual cloud cover, so they simply couldn't afford to stop sh*tting on Mother Earth.

Maybe Lyle Lanley should come to Los Osos and sell them a monorail.

By: WiseGuy on 11/2/08

I met Tom Murphy about a year ago and he told me he was in the midst of suing the state of California for many BILLIONS of dollars. (I don't recall the exact figure.)

I told him I had no idea if his "reclamator" works or not, but that I wasn't surprised he was running into obstacles because of his combative attitude and the fact that if his lawsuit succeeded, it would likely bankrupt the state AND make him one of the richest men in the United States, if not the world. I said I didn't think the powers that be would be supportive of either of those outcomes. It just seemed rather extreme, I thought.

He basically replied that he didn't give a Sh.. and that the state could go f…. itself and that he deserved to be one of the richest men in the world because of all the work he had put into this project. He was frighteningly serious.

He seemed much more interested in defending his "genius" and becoming one of the richest people in the world than actually helping people in his community. He seemed to be getting some sort of perverse satisfaction about being the "victim" of all this and wanting to decimate his oppressors and become one of the richest men in the world.

I diplomatically told him I didn't think he had a constructive attitude and, if his machine really works, he would not be successful with it until he changed his attitude and approach. I don't think he appreciated my advice.

By: Booty_Juice on 11/2/08

Rarely has a community demonstrated as clearly as Los Osos a complete and utter inability to govern itself over the last 20 plus years, hence the Board of Sup’s finally stepping in to provide the adult supervision that is totally lacking there.

It is therefore perfectly natural that matters have regressed to LO citizens consuming their own piss and sh*t.

It’s Ironic how twenty years ago they could have built out the entire sewer system for little more than a couple of these new fangled Rectumgators.

By: judith on 11/2/08

Actually, this is a new lawsuit, filed on Oct 24.(text available at I don't know what happened to the $79.5 million lawsuit he filed early this year. Perhaps it got laughed out of court?

By: judith on 11/2/08


The price of the Wrecklamator increased to the amount of our sewer assessment per house, which is $24,941.19. See a coincidence here? Check out if you want a good laugh, especially the "FAQS" section. It's a hoot.

By: unlisted on 11/2/08

Why doesn't Tom Murphy just claim that the reclamator turns sh#t into gold? He could probably sell even more of them.

By: BobMclemon on 11/2/08

Countdown. Most intelligent and accurate comment I have seen yet.

By: Booty_Juice on 11/2/08

I was told the price went from 2k to 25k because the new model not only converts your sh*t and piss to drinking water but, optionally, to Bubble Up and a very lean meat-like substance suitable for the barby.

These are evidently selling like methcakes in Atrashcabama.

By: Countdown on 11/1/08

With a name like Booty Juice and considering where he lives, he should know all about crap flowing downhill.

Interesting that the price of this apparatus increased exponentially based on nothing more than projected profits.

By: mccdave on 11/1/08

When I was in the Marines, I could sh*t Tiffany cufflinks if the Sargeant ordered me to.

By: mccdave on 11/1/08

Dean Kamen, a well-known inventor, has a water purification system that's intended to be used in poor countries where clean water is scarce and conventional purification isn't feasible. I'm not sure whether it processes raw sewage, but the cost is more like $2K.

(I guess it was inevitable that Booty Juice would comment on this breaking news story. God bless that man…. But it's pronounced "Los Grossos.")

By: Truthbeknown on 11/1/08

It's a scam. If it's too good to be true . . .

By: Laura on 11/1/08

Very funny Booty Juice. I was serious.

I'll save you a post.

Booty_Juice says


I was serious too.

By: Booty_Juice on 11/1/08

I know a guy that built a car with an engine that actually produces gas. Really. It works, it really does. He has to stop every couple hundreed miles and drain off the excess gas. He lives in Los Osos and works in Peso Robles in a window tinting shop financed by EFI.

By: Laura on 11/1/08

The report from Judith about a citizen being forced to hook up to sewer and decommission her septic tank is curious. If her water waste was being cleaned up then what was the big deal? Its the water waste that seeps into the ground and causes the contamination isn't it? Why does it matter if an area is densely populated if everyone has a system that cleans up on site? Maybe there is something to this after all? Of course the guy has to prove that his system works. If he refuses to provide documented studies then he is crazy and his attorney is taking him for a ride. I knew a person who had an invention that cleaned up smog before it hit the atmosphere. It worked (it really did work) but he refused to prove it with studies and document it because he thought someone would steal his invention!

By: George on 11/1/08

I won't delete a comment unless I get an Email and or complaints in the thread,or it is way over the line,carry on.

By: judith on 10/31/08

To Afriendindeed,

You are correct. My husband called Murphy and Low just that at a BOS meeting. What was funny was that my husband didn't mention them by name. I was in the room, and heard " did he call us that" and "can he call us that?" in response to his snake-oil assertations.

By: judith on 10/31/08


The thing is, this technology would probably work, but it just isn't appropriate for this density of population. Too many houses in too small an area. Murphy actually sold his septic tank (sorry."service") to a woman in Lake Havasu City, who later had to have the tank decommissioned. She was ordered to hook up to the area's sewer system or face huge fines and possible loss of her real estate license. It has been well documented, and I can provide documentation,from the horse's mouth, should anyone care. The problem is; if you don't live here, you don't care. And why should you? Local politics are hilarious. Until you have to deal with the outcome.

By: Afriendindeed on 10/31/08

Go ahead and delete me, but this guy is an idiot, a snake oil salesman, a total fraud. Unbelievable that you would give him press!

By: hotdog on 10/31/08

It all seems pretty simple. Have UL or other respected lab test it and go from there. If he won't do that he's history. If the machine tests out this could be a real boon.

If he really expects anyone to take his word on the attributes of his unit then he is a whack job, we need independent info.

By: judith on 10/31/08

Test reports?? He has said many times, he doesn't need test results because the law is on his side. Wack job con man. I don't think anyone has bought his magic tank yet, thank heaven.

By: Nancy on 10/31/08

This sure is an interesting story. I imagine he has some test reports from licensed laboratories that confirm that his reclamator works? 25K per household is pretty steep. I think I'll pay my water bill and forgo the new invention.

He's right about government though. We have too much gov that acts on behalf of special interest (themselves). I'd personally love to see someone come along a knock out a few incompetent self serving agencies. Maybe Obama will do some of that for us.

By: Booty_Juice on 10/31/08

That's what happens when you drink your own sh*t-filtered piss for too long – you fit right in in Los Osos.

By: judith on 10/31/08

Tom Murphy is crazier than a sh*t house rat! I have pages and pages of his deranged emails, and his attitude about proving his device is "it works because I say it works." Also, he is NOT the president of AES, inc., as he claims. The only officer in that company (incorporated in Nevada) is his ex-wife Jean. When he first came to town, his "wrecklamator" would, according to Murphy,cost each household $3500. Now he's hawking them at $25,000 per. I think he is a pathological liar, but he is amusing at times. Great story, Dan