Water Reclamation Facility Helps UF Go Green

In an era when the University of Florida and just about every place else is working to “go green,” there’s one source of greenness that tends to fly under the radar at UF.   Correspondent A.J. Nesbitt writes about the UF water reclamation facility in the Gainesville Sun.   Continue reading for the full article.  The original article can be seen HERE in the Sunday, May 3 edition of the Gainesville Sun.

Water Reclamation Facility helps UF go green

By A.J. Nesbitt
Correspondent
Published: Sunday, May 3, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, May 2, 2009 at 11:15 p.m.

In an era when the University of Florida and just about every place else is working to “go green,” there’s one source of greenness that tends to fly under the radar at UF.

It’s UF’s Water Reclamation Facility.

The wastewater treatment plant has actually been a fixture off Gale Lemerand Drive near the Commuter Lot since 1948, although it was upgraded in 1994.

The lush, green beauty of the UF campus, in many respects, has the water reclamation plant to thank, since the campus landscape thrives courtesy of the reusable water that is produced by the reclamation facility.

Although the water the facility produces is reusable, it is not drinking water.

“It is non-potable water,” explained Mike Price, a senior treatment plant operator. “That means that the water that is reclaimed cannot be consumed, but is very safe for humans to be exposed to.”

“We are a re-use facility. Most of the water is reused on campus for irrigation,” Price said.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection provides the permits that allow the facility’s reclaimed water to be reused.

The DEP sets the guidelines and regulations that the water reclamation facility must follow strictly, Price said.

“We are strictly monitored and held accountable by the DEP,” Price said.

The process the sewage undergoes in order to get to the point of reuse is elaborate, incorporating the combination of biological and chemical treatments, Price explained.

Once the water is filtered, it is then exposed to “the bugs,” as Price and his colleagues call them.

“The bugs” are actually microorganisms that are used by the plant to break down the waste – a process called the nitrogen cycle, Price said.

“There are no toxins released from the facility, just nitrogen and typical water evaporation,” Price said. After several more steps comes the chemical treatment, in which the mostly filtered water is disinfected by treating it with sodium hypochlorite, said Price.

“That is basically strong industrial bleach with some chlorine,” Price said. “It takes approximately 30 to 40 minutes to become disinfected.”

It’s after this point that the water becomes reusable, at which point it is stored in a holding well until there is enough for most of the campus.

According to Price, the plant is designed to hold three million gallons a day of treated water.

Fred Bravo, the reclamation facility’s treatment plant specialist, explained that “current technology doesn’t allow (the plant’s recycled water) to become recyclable or re-drinkable quality.”

In addition, “[Some of] the water that leaves the plant is used to cool the turbine at the Progress Energy CoGeneration Plant on campus,” said Rafael Giro, assistant director of the Systems Department at UF’s Physical Plant Division. Using this reclaimed water for cooling is a lot better than dipping into much-needed drinking water, Giro said.

“This plant is one of those quiet environmentally friendly processes that coexists within our campus and community that is essential for our well-being and the well-being of future Gators,” Giro said.

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