US EPA 1993 Constructed Wetlands for Wastewater Treatment and Wildlife Habitat

by user

Category: Documents





US EPA 1993 Constructed Wetlands for Wastewater Treatment and Wildlife Habitat
Note: This information is provided for reference purposes only.
Although the information provided here was accurate and current
when first created, it is now outdated.
Disclaimer: The information in this website is entirely drawn from a 1993 publication, and has not
been updated since the original publication date. Users are cautioned that information reported at that
time may have become outdated.
United States
Environmental Protection
September 1993
Constructed Wetlands
for Wastewater Treatment
and Wildlife Habitat
17 Case Studies
The symbol on the cover of this report was developed in
Washington State by a group of state and federal agencies
working in cooperation with a private real estate firm,
Port Blakely Mill Company. It is available free of charge
for use in any program dealing with wetland preservation
and enhancement. To date, organizations in 33 states are
using the symbol. For more information, contact:
Ellin Spenser
Port Blakely Mill Company
151 Madrone Lane
North Bainbridge Island, WA 98110
or call (206) 842-3088.
Table of Contents
Free Water Surface Constructed Wetlands Systems
Location and Characteristics of 17 Free Water Surface System Success
Sources of Additional Information
Grand Strand, SC (Carolina Bays)
Houghton Lake, MI
Cannon Beach, OR
Vermontville, MI
Arcata, CA
Martinez, CA (Mt. View Sanitary Dist.)
Marin Co., CA (Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary Dist.)
Hayward Marsh, CA (Union Sanitary Dist.)
Orlando, FL (Orlando Easterly Wetlands Reclamation Project)
Lakeland, FL
Incline Village, NV
ShowLow, AZ (Pintail Lake & Redhead Marsh)
Pinetop/Lakeside, AZ (Jacques Marsh)
Fort Deposit, AL
West Jackson Co., MS
Hillsboro, OR (Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve)
Des Plaines River, IL
Concerned Citizen Questionaire
This compilation of constructed wetlands system case studies
was prepared with funding assistance from the U.S. EPA's
Office of Wastewater Management under the direction of
Robert K. Bastian of the Municipal Technology Branch.
The following individuals and organizations provided
significant resource support and were responsible for the
preparation of the individual case study write-ups:
Robert L. Knight;
CH2M-Hill (Gainesville, FL)
Grand Strand, SC;
West Jackson Co., MS;
Fort Deposit, AL;
Incline Village, NV
Robert H. Kadlec;
University of Michigan and
Wetland Management Services
Houghton Lake, MI;
Vermontville, MI;
Des Plaines River, IL
Mel Wilhelm;
U.S. Forest Service/Apache Sitgreaves Nat'l. Forests with
assistance from the U.S. EPA Center for Environmental
Research Information, Cincinnati, OH
ShowLow, AZ;
Pinetop/Lakeside, AZ
Francesca C. Demgen;
Woodward-Clyde Consultants
(Oakland, CA)
Martinez, CA;
Hayward Marsh, CA;
Marin Co., CA;
Cannon Beach, OR
The operational experience and research
results reported in the available literature
suggest that the growing interest in the use
of constructed wetlands as a part of water
treatment offers considerable opportunity
for realizing sizable future savings in
wastewater treatment costs for small
communities and for upgrading even large
treatment facilities.
Robert A. Gearheart; Humbolt State University
Arcata, CA
Jon C. Dyer,
JoAnn Jackson,
John S. Shearer and staff; Post, Buckley, Schuh & Jernigan, Inc. (Winter Park, FL),
Orlando, FL;
Lakeland, FL
Dale Richwine,
Linda Newberry and Mark Jockers;
Hillsboro, OR (Unified Sewerage Agency)
Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve
In addition, insights on the habitat value and wildlife usage of many of the facilities described were
provided by field data collected and summarized by the EPA Environmental Research Lab., Corvallis,
OR, in cooperation with ManTech Environmental Technology Inc.; the Cooperative Fish & Wildlife
Research Unit, Dept. of Wildlife & Range Sciences, University. of Florida-Gainesville; and the Nevada
Department of Wildlife.
The case studies were not subject to the Agency's peer and administrative review. Mention of specific
case studies does not constitute endorsement or categorical recommendation for use by the U.S. EPA.
While EPA believes that the case studies may be very useful to the reader, EPA does not select or
endorse one alternative technology over other approaches to treat or reuse wastewater effluents.
Extensive research efforts have provided considerable insight into the design, operation
and performance of natural and constructed wetlands treatment systems.
Wastewater treatment is a problem that has plagued man ever since he
discovered that discharging his wastes into surface waters can lead to
many additional environmental problems. The Clean Water Act (P.L.92500 passed in 1972 and its more recent amendments) led to the
construction of many new wastewater treatment facilities across the
country to help control water pollution. In the future add-on processes
will be needed to upgrade many of these treatment facilities. In
addition, more attention will need to be given to controlling the many
small volume, point sources as well as the numerous non-point sources
of water pollution if the water quality objectives of the Clean Water Act
are ever to be fully realized.
Today, a wide range of treatment technologies are available for use in
our efforts to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and
Intensive studies carried out for
biological integrity of the nation's waters. During the past 20 years,
over 5 years at Santee, CA,
considerable interest has been expressed in the potential use of a variety
evaluated the performance of
of natural biological systems to help purify water in a controlled
constructed wetlands
manner. These natural biological treatment systems include various
experimental units planted with
forms of ponds, land treatment and wetlands systems. As a result of
reeds, cattails, and bulrush..
both extensive research efforts and practical application of these
technologies, considerable insight has been gained into their design, performance, operation and
maintenance. Much of this experience has been summarized in project summaries, research reports,
technical papers and design guidance.
Some of the earliest investigations to explore the capabilities of various wetland and other aquatic plant
systems to help treat wastewater were undertaken in various European countries by Seidel, Kickuth, de
Jong and others. Related studies were eventually undertaken by Spangler, Sloey, Small, Gersberg,
Goldman, Dinges, Wolverton, Reddy, Richardson and others in numerous locations across the U.S.
Kadlec, Odum and Ewel, Valiela, Teal, and others have undertaken long-term assessments of the
capabilities of several types of natural wetlands to handle wastewater additions. Funding provided by the
National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of the Interior, National Aeronautics and Space
Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Department of
Agriculture and others has played an important role in stimulating the development of the available
information and guidance on constructed wetland treatment systems in the U.S.
The operational experience and research results reported in the available
literature suggest that the growing interest in the use of constructed
wetlands as a part of water treatment offers considerable opportunity for
realizing sizable future savings in wastewater treatment costs for small
communities and for upgrading even large treatment facilities. At the same
time, as is demonstrated by the 17 wetland treatment system case studies
located in 10 states that are presented in this document, these systems can
provide valuable wetland habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife, as well
as areas for public education and recreation. Clearly such systems create an
opportunity to contribute to the Nation’s efforts to restore, maintain and
create valuable wetland habitat.
Long-term observations and
studies of northern wetlands
receiving wastewater
effluents have followed the
impact of changes in nutrient
loadings and hydrology on
vegetation and wildlife use at
projects such as the
Drummond Bog in Northern
Michael B. Cook, Director
Office of Wastewater Management
Robert H. Wayland III, Director
Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds
Constructed wetlands are being effectively used to help
protect the quality of urban lakes by improving the
quality of stormwater runoff in urban areas such as at the
Greenwood Urban Wetland, a former dump site, in
Orlando, Florida.
17 Case Studies
The potential for achieving improved water quality while creating
valuable wildlife habitat has lead to a growing interest in the use of
constructed wetlands for treating and recycling wastewater. While land
intensive, these systems offer an effective means of integrating
wastewater treatment and resource enhancement, often at a cost that is
competitive with conventional wastewater treatment alternatives. This
document provides brief descriptions of 17 wetland treatment systems
from across the country that are providing significant water quality
benefits while demonstrating additional benefits such as wildlife habitat.
The projects described include systems involving both constructed and
natural wetlands, habitat creation and restoration, and the improvement
of municipal effluent, urban stormwater and river water quality. Each
project description was developed by individuals directly involved with
or very familiar with the project in a format that could also be used as a
stand-alone brochure or handout for project visitors.
Many of the same values
associated with natural
wetlands can also be realized
by wetlands constructed for
wastewater polishing.
17 Case Studies
Natural wetlands (e.g., swamps, bogs, marshes, fens, sloughs,
etc.) are being recognized as providing many benefits,
including: food and habitat for wildlife; water quality
improvement; flood protection; shoreline erosion control;
and opportunities for recreation and aesthetic appreciation.
Many of these same benefits have been realized by projects
across the country that involve the use of wetlands in
wastewater treatment.
Many freshwater, brackish, and saltwater wetlands have
inadvertently received polluted runoff and served as natural
water treatment systems for centuries. Wetlands, as waters of
the U.S., have been subjected to wastewater discharges from
municipal, industrial and agricultural sources, and have
received agricultural and surface mine runoff, irrigation
return flows, urban stormwater discharges, leachates, and
other sources of water pollution. The actual impacts of such
inputs on different wetlands has been quite variable.
In the Southeast alone, over 500 natural
wetlands such as this cyprus strand in Florida
receive discharges from POTWs and other point
However, it has only been during the past few decades that
the planned use of wetlands for meeting wastewater
treatment and water quality objectives has been seriously studied and implemented in a controlled
manner. The functional role of wetlands in improving water quality has been a compelling argument for
the preservation of natural wetlands and in recent years the construction of wetlands systems for
wastewater treatment. A growing number of studies have provided evidence that many wetlands systems
are able to provide an effective means of improving water quality without creating problems for wildlife.
However, in some cases evidence has shown a resulting change in wetland community types and a shift
to more opportunistic species.
There remain, however, concerns over the possibility of harmful effects resulting from toxic materials
and pathogens that may be present in many wastewater sources. Also, there are concerns that there may
be a potential for long-term degradation of natural wetlands due to the addition of nutrients and changes
in the natural hydrologic conditions influencing these systems. At least in part due to such concerns,
there has been a growing interest in the use of constructed wetlands for wastewater treatment.
Constructed wetlands treatment systems are engineered systems that have been designed and constructed
to utilize the natural processes involving wetland vegetation, soils, and their associated microbial
assemblages to assist in treating wastewater. They are designed to take advantage of many of the same
processes that occur in natural wetlands, but do so within a more controlled environment. Some of these
systems have been designed and operated with the sole purpose of treating wastewater, while others have
been implemented with multiple-use objectives in mind, such as using treated wastewater effluent as a
water source for the creation and restoration of wetland habitat for wildlife use and environmental
Constructed wetlands treatment systems generally fall into
one of two general categories: Subsurface Flow Systems
and Free Water Surface Systems. Subsurface Flow Systems
are designed to create subsurface flow through a permeable
medium, keeping the water being treated below the surface,
thereby helping to avoid the development of odors and other
nuisance problems. Such systems have also been referred to
as "root-zone systems," "rock-reed-filters," and "vegetated
submerged bed systems." The media used (typically soil,
sand, gravel or crushed rock) greatly affect the hydraulics of
the system. Free Water Surface Systems, on the other hand,
are designed to simulate natural wetlands, with the water
flowing over the soil surface at shallow depths. Both types of
wetlands treatment systems typically are constructed in
basins or channels with a natural or constructed subsurface
barrier to limit seepage.
A recently expanded Subsurface Flow
constructed wetland system serves the small
community of Monterey in Highland Co.,
Constructed wetlands treatment systems have diverse
applications and are found across the country and around the
world. While they can be designed to accomplish a variety of
treatment objectives, for the most part, Subsurface Flow
Systems are designed and operated in a manner that provides limited opportunity for benefits other than
water quality improvement. On the other hand, Free Water Surface Systems are frequently designed to
maximize wetland habitat values and reuse opportunities, while providing water quality improvement.
17 Case Studies
Free Water Surface Constructed Wetlands Systems
"The wide diversity of organisms coupled with the high level of productivity makes a
marsh a hot bed of biological activity. The most striking improvement is the removal of
suspended solids. Suspended solids in the Arcata STP are algae which supply oxygen in
their secondary treatment ponds. These algae solids become entrapped, impacted, and
isolated in small quiescent areas around the stems and underwater portions of aquatic
plants as the water moves through marshes. The algal solids in these quiescent areas
become food sources for microscopic aquatic animals and aquatic insects. This predation
plays an important part in removing the solids and in moving energy through the food
chain in the wetland. Over time, wetlands continue to separate and deposit suspended
solids building deltas comprised of organic matter. At some point this detrital layer in the
bottom of the marsh along with dead aquatic plants may need to be removed. Based on
Arcata's experience this maintenance requirement is not expected until at least 8-10 years
of operation at design loads."
Just how do constructed wetlands, in this case free water surface systems, remove pollutants from the
wastewater effluent? These systems affect water quality through a variety of natural processes that occur
in wetlands. An explanation of the major processes involved are effectively described by Robert A.
Gearheart in a paper contained in the proceedings of a conference on wetlands for wastewater treatment
and resource enhancement at Humbolt State University in Arcata, CA, during 1988 ¹:
Dissolved biodegradable material is removed
from the wastewater by decomposing
microorganisms which are living on the
exposed surfaces of the aquatic plants and
soils. Decomposers such as bacteria, fungi,
and actinomycetes are active in any wetland
by breaking down this dissolved and
particulate organic material to carbon dioxide
and water. This active decomposition in the
wetland produces final effluents with a
characteristic low dissolved oxygen level
with low pH in the water. The effluent from a
constructed wetland usually has a low BOD
as a result of this high level of decomposition.
Aquatic plants play an important part in
supporting these removal processes. Certain aquatic plants pump atmospheric oxygen into their
submerged stems, roots, and tubers. Oxygen is then utilized by the microbial decomposers attached to the
aquatic plants below the level of the water. Plants also play an active role in taking up nitrogen,
phosphorus, and other compounds from the wastewater. This active incorporation of nitrogen and
phosphorus can be one mechanism for nutrient removal in a wetland. Some of the nitrogen and
phosphorus is released back into the water as the plants die and decompose. In the case of nitrogen much
of the nitrate nitrogen can be converted to nitrogen gas through denitrification processes in the wetland."
Free Water Surface constructed wetlands treatment systems and
related natural systems used as a part of treatment systems have
been successfully used across the country. Many of these
systems have been designed and operated to not only improve
water quality, but to also provide high quality wetland habitat
for waterfowl and other wildlife. Many of the systems are
operated as wildlife refuges or parks as well as a part of
wastewater treatment, reuse or disposal systems. In some cases
these systems also provide an area for public education and
recreation in the form of birding, hiking, camping, hunting, etc.
The operational experience and research results reported to date
suggest that the growing interest in managing constructed
wetlands systems as a part of wastewater treatment and habitat
creation/maintenance efforts offers considerable opportunities
for the future. The technical feasibility of implementing such
projects has been clearly demonstrated by full-scale systems in
various parts of the country. However, it is also clear that there
is still a long way to go before such systems will be considered
for routine use. While existing projects have demonstrated the
potential for future use of constructed wetlands systems, there
is an obvious need for further study to improve our
understanding of the internal components of these systems,
their responses and interactions, in order to allow for more
optimum project design, operation and maintenance.
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation/Eastern
Municipal Water District Wetlands
Research Facility, San Jacinto, California.
This site is a popular spot for local schools
to tour and study wetlands ecology. One of
the multi-purpose elements of the project is
public education and recreation.
1 Allen,
G.H. and R.A. Gearheart (eds.). 1988. Proceedings of a
Conference on Wetlands for Wastewater Treatment and Resource
Enhancement. Humbolt State Univ., Arcata, CA.
Case Studies
Descriptions of 17 carefully selected projects located in 10 states (see Figure 1) are provided that help
describe the full range of opportunity to treat and reuse wastewater effluents that exist across the country
today. They include systems involving both constructed and natural wetlands, habitat creation and
restoration, and the improvement of municipal wastewater effluents, urban stormwater and river water
quality. Many of the projects received Construction Grants funding and several were built on Federal
lands. All experience extensive wildlife usage, some providing critical refuge for rare plants and animals.
Several are relatively new projects while others have been operating for 15-20 years. There are projects
involving as few as 15 acres and several with more than 1,200 acres of wetland habitat. Among those
described in this document are projects which have received major awards such as the ASCE Award of
Engineering Excellence, the ACEC Grand Conceptor Award, and the Council Award, the ESA Special
Recognition Award, and the Ford Foundation Award for Innovation in a Local Government Project.
The case studies demonstrate that wastewater can be effectively treated, reused and recycled with free
water surface wetland systems in an environmentally sensitive way. They also demonstrate that
wastewater treatment and disposal can be effectively integrated into recreational, educational, and
wildlife habitat creation/wetland restoration efforts so as to enhance the value of a city’s capital
investment in wastewater treatment facilities. Greater recognition of these model projects may help lead
to projects of high quality being developed in the future.
Sources of Additional Information
Allen, G.H. and R.H. Gearheart (eds). 1988. Proceedings of a Conference on Wetlands for Wastewater
Treatment and Resource Enhancement. Humbolt Sate Univ., Arcata, CA
Brinson, M.M. and F.R. Westall. 1983. Application of Wastewater to Wetlands. Rept. #5, Water
Research Inst., Univ. of North Carolina, Raleigh, NC
Brix, H. 1987. Treatment of Wastewater in the Rhizosphere of Wetland PlantsùThe Root Zone Method.
Water Sci Technol., 19:107-118
Brown, M.T. 1991. Evaluating Constructed Wetlands Through Comparisons with Natural Wetlands.
EPA/600\3-91-058. EPA Environmental Research Lab., Corvallis, OR
Chan, E., T.A. Bunsztynsky, N. Hantzsche, and Y.J. Litwin. 1981. The Use of Wetlands for Water
Pollution Control. EPA-600/S2-82-086. EPA Municipal Environmental Research Lab., Cincinnati, OH
Confer, S.R. and W.A. Niering. 1992. Comparison of Created and Natural Freshwater Emergent
Wetlands in Connecticut (USA). Wetlands Ecology & Management. 2(3):143-156
Cooper, P.F. and B.C. Findlater. 1990. Constructed Wetlands in Water Pollution Control. IAWPRC.
Pergamon Press, Inc., Maxwell House, NY
Etnier, C. and B. Guterstam. 1991. Ecological Engineering for Wastewater Treatment. Bokskogen,
Gothenburg, Sweden
Ewel, K.C. and H.T. Odum (eds). 1984. Cypress Swamps. University of Florida Press, Gainesville, FL
Gamroth, M.J. and J.A. Moore. April 1993. Design and Construction of Demonstration/Research
Wetlands for Treatment of Dairy Farm Wastewater. EPA/600/R-93/105. EPA Environmental Research
Laboratory, Corvallis, OR
Gersberg, R.M., S.R. Lyon, B.Y. Elkins, and C.R. Goldman. 1984. The Removal of Heavy Metals by
Artificial Wetlands. EPA-600/D-84-258. Robt. S. Kerr Env. Research Lab., Ada, OK
Gersberg, R.M., B.V. Elkins, S.R. Lyon and C.R. Goldman. 1986. Role of Aquatic Plants in Wastewater
Treatment by Artificial Wetlands. Water Res. 20:363-368
Godfrey, P.J., E.R. Kaynor, S. Pelczarski and J. Benforado (eds). 1985. Ecological Considerations in
Wetlands Treatment of Municipal Wastewaters. Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., New York, NY
Good, R.E., D.F. Whigham, and R.L. Simpson
(eds). 1978. Freshwater Wetlands: Ecological
Processes and Management Potential. Academic
Press, New York, NY
Greeson, P.E., J.R. Clark & J.E. Clark (eds). 1979.
Wetland Functions and Values: The State of Our
Understanding. Amer. Water Resources Assoc.,
Minneapolis, MN
Hammer, D.A. (ed). 1989. Constructed Wetlands for
Wastewater Treatment - Municipal, Industrial &
Agricultural. Lewis Publ., Chelsea, MI
Hammer, D.E. and R.H. Kadlec. 1983. Design
Principles for Wetland Treatment Systems. EPA600/S2-83-026. EPA Municipal Environmental
Research Lab, Cincinnati, OH
Hook, D.D. et. al. 1988. The Ecology and
Management of Wetlands (2 vols.). Croom Held,
Ltd., London/Timber Press, Portland, OR
Experimental studies continue to be carried out in
Florida and many other parts of the country as well as
overseas to evaluate the performance of a variety of
constructed wetlands systems.
Hyde, H.C. R.S. Ross and F.C. Demgen. 1984. Technology Assessment of Wetlands for Municipal
Wastewater Treatment. EPA 600/2-84-154. EPA Municipal Environmental Research Lab., Cincinnati,
IAWQ/AWWA. 1992. Proceedings of Wetlands Downunder, An International Specialist Conference on
Wetlands Systems in Water Pollution Control. Int'l. Assoc. of Water Quality/Australian Water &
Wastewater Assoc., Univ. of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
Kadlec, R.H. and J.A. Kadlec. 1979. Wetlands and Water Quality IN: Wetlands Functions and Values;
The State of Our Understanding. American Water Resources Assoc., Bethesda, MD
Kusler, J.A. and M.E. Kentula (eds). 1990. Wetland Creation and Restoration: The Status of the Science.
Island Press, Washington, DC
McAllister, L.S. July 1992. Habitat Quality Assessment of Two Wetland Treatment Systems in the Arid
West--Pilot Study. EPA/600/R-93/117. EPA Environmental Research Laboratory, Corvallis, OR
McAllister, L.S. November 1992. Habitat Quality Assessment of Two Wetland Treatment Systems in
Mississippi--A Pilot Study. EPA/600/R-92/229. EPA Environmental Research Laboratory, Corvallis, OR
McAllister, L.S. November 1993. Habitat Quality Assessment of
Two Wetland Treatment Systems in Florida--A Pilot Study.
EPA/600/R-93/222. EPA Environmental Research Laboratory,
Corvallis, OR
Mitsch, W.J. and J.G. Gosselink. 1986. Wetlands. Van Nostrand
Reinhold Co., New York, NY
The operational experience and
research results reported in the
available literature suggest that
constructed wetlands treatment
systems are capable of producing
high quality water while supporting
valuable wildlife habitat.
Moshiri, G.A. (ed). 1993. Constructed Wetlands for Water Quality
Improvement. CRC Press, Inc., Boca Raton, FL
Newton, R.B. 1989. The Effects of Stormwater Surface Runoff on
Freshwater Wetlands: A Review of the Literature and Annotated
Bibliography. Publ. #90-2. The Environmental Institute, Univ. of
Massachusetts, Amherst, MA
Nixon, S.W. and V. Lee. 1986. Wetlands and Water Quality: A Regional Review of Recent Research in
the U.S. on the Role of Freshwater and Saltwater Wetlands as Sources, Sinks, and Transformers of
Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Heavy Metals. Technical Rept. Y-86-2, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Waterways Experiment Station, Vicksburg, MS
Reddy, K.R. and W.H. Smith (eds). 1987. Aquatic Plants for Water Treatment and Resource Recovery.
Magnolia Press, Inc., Orlando, FL
Reed, S.C., E.J. Middlebrooks, R.W. Crites. 1988. Natural Systems for Waste Management & Treatment.
McGraw Hill, New York, NY
Reed, S.C., R. Bastian, S. Black, and R. Khettry. 1984. Wetlands for Wastewater Treatment in Cold
Climates. IN: Future of Water Reuse, Proceedings of the Water Reuse Symposium III. Vol. 2:962-972.
AWWA Research Foundation, Denver, CO
Richardson, C.J. 1985. Mechanisms Controlling Phosphorous Retention Capacity in Freshwater
Wetlands. Science 228:1424-1427
Stockdale, E.C. 1991. Freshwater Wetlands, Urban Stormwater, and Nonpoint Pollution Control: A
Literature Review and Annotated Bibliography. 2nd Ed. WA Dept. of Ecology, Olympia, WA
Strecker, E.W., J.M. Kersnar, E.D. Driscoll & R.R. Horner. April 1992. The Use of Wetlands for
Controlling Stormwater Pollution. The Terrene Inst., Washington, DC
Tilton, D.L. and R.H. Kadlec. 1979. The Utilization of a Freshwater Wetland for Nutrient Removal from
Secondarily Treated Wastewater Effluent. JEQ 8:328-334
Tourbier, J. and R.W. Pierson (eds). 1976. Biological Control of Water Pollution. Univ. of Pennsylvania
Press, Philadelphia, PA
U.S. EPA. February 1993. Natural Wetlands and Urban Stormwater: Potential Impacts and Management.
EPA843-R-001. Office of Wetlands, Oceans and Watersheds, Washington, DC
U.S. EPA. July 1993. Subsurface Flow Constructed Wetlands for Wastewater Treatment: A Technology
Assessment. EPA832-R-93-001. Office of Water, Washington, DC
U.S. EPA. September 1988. Process Design ManualùConstructed Wetlands and Aquatic Plant Systems
for Municipal Wastewater Treatment. EPA 625/1-88/022. Center for Environmental Research
Information, Cincinnati, OH
U.S. EPA. October 1987. Report on the Use of Wetlands for Municipal Wastewater Treatment and
Disposal. EPA 430/09-88-005. Office of Municipal Pollution Control, Washington, DC
U.S. EPA. September 1985. Freshwater Wetlands for Wastewater Management Environmental
Assessment Handbook. EPA 904/9-85-135. Region IV, Atlanta, GA
U.S. EPA/U.S. F&WL Service. 1984. The Ecological Impacts of Wastewater on Wetlands, An
Annotated Bibliography. EPA 905/3-84-002. Region V, Chicago, IL and U.S. F&WL Service,
Kearneysville, WY
U.S. EPA. 1983. The Effects of Wastewater Treatment Facilities on Wetlands in the Midwest. EPA
905/3-83-002. Region V, Chicago, IL
Whigham, D.F., C. Chitterling, and B. Palmer. 1988. Impacts of Freshwater Wetlands on Water Quality:
A Landscape Perspective. Environmental Management 12:663-671
WPCF. 1990. Natural Systems for Wastewater Treatment; Manual of Practice FD-16. Water Pollution
Control Federation, Alexandria, VA
Bottles with representative samples (taken from the influent [on left] to final [on right] sample
stations) from the Houghton Lake, MI, wetland treatment system which has been in operation
since 1978.
Note: This information is provided for reference purposes only.
Although the information provided here was accurate and current
when first created, it is now outdated.
Disclaimer: The information in this website is entirely drawn from a 1993 publication, and has not
been updated since the original publication date. Users are cautioned that information reported at that
time may have become outdated.
Carolina Bays: A Natural Wastewater Treatment
Site Description
Operations and Management
Ancillary Benefits
Carolina bays are mysterious land
features often filled with bay trees
and other wetland vegetation.
Because of their oval shape and
consistent orientation, they are
considered by some authorities to
be the result of a vast meteor
shower that occurred thousands of
years ago. Others think the natural
forces of wind and artesian water
flow caused the formation of lakes,
which later filled with vegetation.
Whatever their origin, over
500,000 of these shallow basins
dot the coastal plain from Georgia
In cross section, Carolina bays are shallow, bowl-shaped depressions, often
to Delaware. Many of them occur
filled with peat and surrounded by sandy ruins.
in the Carolinas, which accounts
for their name. Most Carolina bays
are swampy or wet areas, and most of the hundreds present in coastal Horry County, South Carolina, are
nearly impenetrable jungles of vines and shrubs. Because of population growth and increased tourism in
Horry County, expansion of essential utility operations was required. The regional water utility, the
Grand Strand Water & Sewer Authority (GSWSA), retained CH2M HILL in the late 1970s to evaluate
wastewater treatment and disposal options.
Locations to dispose of additional effluent were extremely limited because of sensitive environmental
and recreational concerns. The slow-moving Waccamaw River and Intracoastal Waterway, into which
existing facilities discharged, could not assimilate additional loading without adverse effects on water
quality and resulting impacts on tourism and recreational activities.
On the basis of extensive research and pilot studies, CH2M HILL recommended discharging effluent
from a new 2.5 million gallon per day (mgd) wastewater treatment plant to four nearby Carolina bays.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers the use of wetlands to be an emerging
alternative to conventional treatment processes. As a result, EPA Region IV and the South Carolina
Department of Health and Environmental Control awarded an Innovative /Alternative Technologies
funding grant for the Carolina bays treatment project, enabling GSWSA to provide expanded collection,
treatment, and disposal services at affordable costs.
This grant was used for planning, pilot testing, design, and construction of the full-scale Carolina Bay
Natural Land Treatment Program.
Site Description
After 5 years of intensive study to evaluate viable
treatment and disposal alternatives, four Carolina bays
were selected as treatment sites. Site selection criteria
focused on three primary factors: 1) distance from the
wastewater source, 2) available treatment area, and 3)
environmental sensitivity. The bays chosen for the
GSWSA treatment complex had been previously
affected by man and were the least environmentally
sensitive of the bays considered.
Fourbays covering 700 acres make up the Carolina
Bay Natural Land Treatment System. Plant
succession in these bays is naturally controlled by
fire as seen in Bay 4B (second from left).
Carolina Bays 4-A and 4-B are joined along a portion
of their margins and encompass about 390 acres of
dense, shrubby plant communities with scattered pine
trees. This plant association is called "pocosin" after an Indian word describing a bog on a hill. A
powerline right-of-way bisects Bay 4-A and also cuts through the southern end of Bay 4-B.
The 240-acre Pocosin Bay (Bay 4-C) is also dominated by pocosin vegetation and is filled with up to 15
feet of highly organic peat soils. This bay had received the least amount of prior disturbance and is being
used only as a contingency discharge area. Bear Bay (Bay 4-D) covers 170 acres and is dissimilar from
the other bays because it is densely forested by pine and hardwood tree species. A large portion of this
Carolina bay was cleared for forestry purposes in the mid-1970s but has since been revegetated with a
mixture of upland and wetland plant species.
Carolina Bay Project Summary
George R. Vereen WWTP
Design flow = 2.5 mgd
Pretreatment by aerated lagoons in
.............parallel trains, one completely
.............suspended lagoon and three partially
.............suspended lagoons per train
Lagoon total area = 4.4 acres
Total aeration = 192 hp
Disinfection by contact chlorination
Carolina Bays
Average hydraulic loading rate = 1 in./week Effluent distribution system
7,000 feet of 10-inch aluminum piping 30,000 feet of elevated boardwalks
Final effluent permit limits
BOD5 monthly average 12 mg/l
TSS monthly average 30 mg/l
NH3 summer (Mar-Oct) 1.2 mg/l
NH3 winter (Nov-Feb) 5.0 mg/l
UOD summer (Mar-Oct) 481 lb/day
UOD winter (Nov-Feb) 844 lb/day
Total treatment area = 702 acres
Bay 4A
.............combined = 390 acres
Bay 4B
Bay 4C (Pocosin Bay) = 142 acres
Bay 4D (Bear Bay) = 170 acres
Biological criteria (allowable % change)
4A 4B 4C 4D
Canopy cover
Canopy density
Subcanopy cover
Plant diversity
Project Cost Summary
Pilot system .................................................. $411,000
Vereen WWTP ........................................... 3,587,000
Effluent distribution system
............ (including land) .................................. 2,490,000
Engineering (pilot and
............ full scale) and monitoring .................. 1,332,000
Total cost .................................................. $7,820,000
Operations and Management
The carefully planned and monitored use of Carolina bays for
tertiary wastewater treatment facilitates surface water quality
management while maintaining the natural character of the bays.
After undergoing
conventional primary and
secondary treatment
processes at the George R.
Vereen Wastewater
Treatment Plant, the
wastewater is slowly released
into a Carolina bay for
tertiary treatment, rather than
High-nutrient water in the bays
directly to recreational
increases plant productivity.
surface waters of the area.
The plants found in the
Carolina bays are naturally adapted to wet conditions, so the
addition of a small amount of treated water increases their
productivity and, in the process, provides final purification of the
Aluminum pipes distribute the treated
The treated effluent can be distributed to 700 acres within the four
selected Carolina bays through a series of gated aluminum pipes
supported on wooden boardwalks. Wastewater flow is alternated among the bays, depending on effluent
flow rate and biological conditions in the bays.
Water levels and outflow rates can be partially controlled in Bear Bay through the use of an adjustable
weir gate. Natural surface outlets in the other three bays were not altered by construction of the project.
Compliance with biological criteria protects the Carolina Bay plant
communities from undesirable changes.
Operational water quality since 1987 indicates significant assimilation
of residual pollutants is occuring in Bear Bay.
In 1985, after site selection was completed and before wastewater distribution began, baseline studies
were conducted on the hydrology, surface water, and groundwater quality and flora and fauna of Bear
Bay. Treated effluent was first discharged to the bay in January 1987, and monitoring was continued to
measure variations in the water quality and biological communities. By March 1988, the pilot study had
been successfully completed and the Carolina Bay Natural Land Treatment Program was approved for
full-scale implementation by EPA and South Carolina regulatory agencies.
In October 1990, the Carolina Bay Natural Land Treatment System was dedicated as the Peter Horry
Wildlife Preserve and began serving the wastewater treatment and disposal needs of up to 30,000 people.
Ongoing monitoring indicates that significant assimilation is occurring in Bear Bay before the fully
treated effluent recharges local groundwater or flows into downstream surface waters. Biological
changes have been carefully monitored, with the main observed effect being increased growth of native
wetland plant species.
Variations in the water quality of Bear Bay are closely monitored.
Ancillary Benefits
The Carolina Bay Natural Land Treatment Program not only serves
wastewater management needs but also plays an important role in
protecting the environment. Although the Carolina bays have been
recognized as unique, 98 percent of the bays in South Carolina have been
disturbed by agricultural activities and ditching. The four bays in the
treatment program will be maintained in a natural ecological condition.
These 700 acres of Carolina bays represent one of the largest public
holdings of bays in South Carolina.
The use of wetlands for treatment can significantly lower the cost of
wastewater treatment because the systems rely on plant and animal
growth instead of the addition of power or chemicals. Also, the plant
communities present in the wetlands naturally adjust to changing water
levels and water quality conditions by shifting dominance to those
species best adapted to growing under the new conditions.
Wetland plan communities
easily adjust to changing
Carolina bays provide a critical refuge for rare plants and
animals. Amazingly, black bears still roam the bays' shrub
thickets and forested bottom lands just a few miles from the
thousands of tourists on South Carolina's beaches. Venus
flytraps and pitcher plants, fascinating carnivorous plants that
trap trespassing insects, occur naturally in the Carolina bays.
In addition, the bays are home to hundreds of other interesting
plant and animal species.
The Carolina Bay Nature Park, to be managed by GSWSA, is
currently being planned. The focal point of the park will be an
Pitcher plants occur naturally in the
interpretive visitor center open to the public. This simple
Carolina bays.
structure will be designed and built in harmony with its
surroundings on a sand ridge overlooking two Carolina bays. The center will feature displays about black
bears and Venus flytraps as well as theories on the origin of the Carolina bays, their native plant
associations, including the associated sandhill plant communities, and their use for natural land
The visitor center will be the hub for three hiking trails, including
a 5-minute walk through an adjacent cypress wetland; a 45minute trail though Pocosin Bay and associated titi shrub swamp
and long-leaf pine uplands; and a one-hour walk through a
heavily forested Carolina bay and its adjacent sandhill plant
Combined with the interpretive nature center, the hiking trails
and boardwalks will provide public access, scientific research,
and educational opportunities that were previously unavailable.
The designation of the Peter Horry Wildlife Preserve in October 1990 was the first step in establishing
this park.
An interpretive visitor center is planned as the focal point of the
Carolina Bay Nature Park.
In 1991, the Carolina Bay Natural Land Treatment Program won
the Engineering Excellence Award, Best of Show, from the
Consulting Engineers of South Carolina.
The American Consulting Engineers Council (ACEC) Grand
Conceptor Award, considered the highest national honor in the
consulting engineering field, was awarded to CH2M HILL in
1991 for its implementation of the Carolina bays project. ACEC
selected the project from a field of 127 national finalist entries,
each of which had earlier won in state or regional engineering
excellence competitions.
Numerous individuals and organizations have shared the vision necessary to implement the Carolina Bay
Natural Land Treatment Program. Some of the key organizations and individuals include the following:
Grand Strand Water and Sewer Authority
George R. Vereen, Former Chairman
Sidney F. Thompson, Chairman
Douglas P. Wendel, Executive Director
Fred Richardson, Engineering Manager
Larry Schwartz, Environmental Planner
South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control
Samual J. Grant, Jr., Manager, 201 Facilities Planning Section
G. Michael Caughman, Director, Domestic Wastewater Division
Ron Tata, Director, Waccamaw District
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Harold Hopkins, Former Chief, Facilities Construction Branch, Region IV
Robert Freeman, 201 Construction Grants Coordinator, Region IV
Robert Bastian, Office of Wastewater Management
Richard Hirsekorn, Project Administrator
Robert L. Knight, Project Manager and Senior Consultant
Douglas S. Baughman, Project Manager
South Carolina Coastal Council
H. Stephen Snyder, Director, Planning and Certification
South Carolina Wildlife and Marine Resources Department
Stephen H. Bennett, Heritage Trust Program
Ed Duncan, Environmental Affairs Coordination
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Harvey Geitner, Field Supervisor
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Don Hill, Director, 404 Section
This brochure was prepared by CH2M HILL for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Note: This information is provided for reference purposes only.
Although the information provided here was accurate and current
when first created, it is now outdated.
Disclaimer: The information in this website is entirely drawn from a 1993 publication, and has not
been updated since the original publication date. Users are cautioned that information reported at that
time may have become outdated.
Natural Wetlands for Wastewater Polishing,
Houghton Lake, Michigan
System Description
Water Quality
Soils and Sediments
Public Use
Operator Opinions
System Description
located in
the central
has a
averaging approximately 5,000. A sewage
treatment plant was built in the early 1970’s
to protect the large shallow recreational lake.
This treatment facility is operated by the
Houghton Lake Sewer Authority (HLSA).
Wastewater from this residential community
The wetland treatment site is located southwest of the lake. The
land belongs to the State of Michigan and is dedicated to public is collected and transported to two 5-acre
aerated lagoons, which provide six weeks
and research uses. Dots indicate water monitoring stations.
detention. Sludge accumulates on the bottom
of these lagoons, below the aeration pipes. Effluent is then stored in a 29-acre pond for summer disposal,
resulting in depth variation from 1.5 feet (fall) to 10.0 feet (spring). Discharge can be to 85 acres of
seepage beds, or to 85 acres of flood irrigation area, or to a 1500 acre peatland. The seepage beds were
used until 1978, at which time the wetland system was started up. The wetland has been used since that
time, with only occasional discharges to seepage or flood fields. The average annual discharge is
approximately 120 million gallons. Secondary wastewater is intermittently discharged to the peatland
during May through September, at the instantaneous rate of 2.6 mgd.
Provisions for chlorination are available, but have not been used, because of low levels of fecal coliform
indicator organisms. Water from the holding pond is passed by gravity or pumped to a 3-acre pond which
would provide chlorine removal in the event of the necessity of its use. Wastewater from this pond is
pumped through a 12-inch diameter underground force line to the edge of the Porter Ranch peatland.
There the transfer line surfaces and runs along a raised platform for a distance of 2,500 feet to the
discharge area in the wetland. The wastewater may be split between two halves of the discharge pipe
which runs 1,600 feet in each direction. The water is distributed across the width of the peatland through
small gated openings in the discharge pipe. Each of the 100 gates discharge approximately 16 gallons per
minute, under typical conditions, and the water spreads slowly over the peatland. The branches are not
used equally in all years.
The peatland irrigation site originally supported two distinct vegetation types. One called the sedgewillow community included predominantly sedges (Carex spp.) and Willows (Salix spp.). The second
community was leatherleaf-bog birch, consisting of mostly Chamaedaphne calyculata (L.) Moench and
Betula pumila L., respectively. The leatherleaf-bog birch community also had sedge and willow
vegetation, but only in small proportions. The edge of the peatland contained alder (Alnus spp.) and
willow. Standing water was usually present in spring and fall, but the wetland had no surface water
during dry summers. The leatherleaf-bog birch cover type generally had less standing water than the
sedge-willow cover type. Soil in the sedge-willow community was 3-5 feet of highly decomposed sedge
peat; while in the leatherleaf-bog there is 6-15 feet of medium decomposition sphagnum peat. The entire
wetland rests on a clay “pan” several feet thick.
The wetland provides additional treatment to the
wastewater as it progresses eventually to the Muskegon
River eight miles away. Small, natural water inflows
occur intermittently on the north and east margins of the
wetland. These flows are partially controlled by beaver.
Interior flow in the wetland occurs by overland flow,
proceeding from northeast down a 0.02% gradient to a
stream outlet (Deadhorse Dam) and beaver dam seepage
outflow (Beaver Creek), both located 2-3 miles from the
discharge (Figure 1.) Wastewater adds to the surface
sheet flow. Hydrogeological studies have shown that
there is neither recharge or discharge of the shallow
ground water under the wetland.
The treated wastewater arriving at the peatland is a good
effluent which contains virtually no heavy metals or
The original leatherleaf-bog community also had
refractory chemicals. This is due to the absence of
sedge and willow vegetation in small proportions,
and very low abundance of cattail.
agriculture and industry in the community. Phosphorus
and nitrogen are present at 3-10 ppm, mostly as
orthophosphate and ammonium. BOD is about 15 ppm, and solids are about 20 ppm. Typical levels of
chloride are 100 ppm, pH 8, and conductivity 700 mmho/cm. The character of the water is dramatically
altered in its passage through the wetland. After passage through ten percent of the wetland, water quality
parameters are at background wetland levels. The system has operated successfully in the treatment of
1900 million gallons of secondary wastewater over the first sixteen years.
The Porter Ranch peatland has been under study from 1970 to the present. Studies of the background
status of the wetland were conducted during the period 1970-74, under the sponsorship of the Rockefeller
Foundation and the National Science Foundation (NSF). The natural peatland, and 6m x 6m plots
irrigated with simulated effluent, were studied by an interdisciplinary team from The University of
Michigan. This work gave strong indications that water quality improvements would result from wetland
Subsequently, pilot scale (100,000 gal/day) wastewater irrigation was conducted for the three years 197577. This system was designed, built and operated by the Wetland Ecosystem Research Group at The
University of Michigan. NSF sponsored this effort, including construction costs and research costs. The
pilot study results provided the basis for agency approval of the fullscale wetland discharge system.
The full scale system was designed jointly by Williams and Works, Inc. and the Wetland Ecosystem
Research Group at The University of Michigan. Construction occurred during winter and spring, 1978,
and the first water discharge was made in July, 1978. Compliance monitoring has been supplemented by
full scale ecosystem studies, spanning 1978 to present, which have focussed on all aspects of water
quality improvement and wetland response. Those studies have been sponsored by NSF, and in major
part by the Houghton Lake Sewer Authority.
This wetland treatment system has functioned extremely well for nutrient removal over its sixteen year
Table 1. Economics
Capita (1978 Dollars)
Holding Pond Modification.................................$38,600
Decholorination Pond.........................................153,200
Pond-Wetland Water Transfer.............................83,600
Irrigation System................................................112,800
Monitoring Equipment............................................9,700
Annual Operating Costs (1991 Dollars)
Figure 2
Water moves at about 30-100 m/d with a depth of about 20 cm.
On average, most of the water added to the wetland finds its way to the stream outflows. But in drought
years, most of the water evaporates; and in wet years, rainfall creates additions to flow. During most of
the drought summers of 1987 and 1988, all the pumped water evaporated in the wetland.
Water flow is strongly depth dependent, because litter and vegetation resistance is the hydrologic control.
Doubling the depth causes a ten-fold increase in volume flow. Therefore, when the pump is turned on,
water depths rise only an inch or two. For similar reasons, a large rainstorm does not flood the peatland
to great depths.
There are no man-made outlet control structures, but both man and beaver have relocated the points of
outflow, via culvert and dam placements. Inflows at E1 and E2 have ceased (see Figure 1). The point of
principal stream outflow has changed from E8 to E9; and E9 has been relocated three times, twice by
beaver and once by man.
The soil elevations in the discharge area were originally extremely flat, with a gentle slope (one foot per
mile) toward the outlet. There has developed a significant accumulation of sediment and litter in the
irrigation area, which has the effect of an increased soil elevation. This acts as a four-inch-high dam. As
a consequence, the addition of wastewater along the gated irrigation pipe gives rise to a mound of water
with the high zone near and upstream of the discharge pipe; in other words, there is a backgradient
"pond". Depth at the discharge is not greater, but depths are greater at adjacent up and downstream
locations. There is a water flow back into the backgradient pond, which compensates for evaporative
losses there. But most water moves downgradient, in a gradually thinning sheet flow. (see Figure 2)
The hydroperiod of the natural wetland has been altered in the zone of discharge: dryout no longer occurs
there, even under drought conditions.
Table 2. Summary of Water Budgets.
Thousands of m3, 1.0 km2 zone. Inventory change not shown
The interval is the pumping season, typically May1-September 14.
Precipitation minus Wastewater Watershed
Outflow Outflow Percent
Evapotranspiration Addition
-250 (est)
Averages -82
Water Quality
The phenomena interior to the irrigation zone lead to gradients in the concentrations of dissolved
constituents in the direction of water flow. As the water passes through the ecosystem, both biotic and
abiotic interactions occur which reduce the concentration for many species, including nitrogen,
phosphorus and sulfur. Surface water samples from the wastewater irrigation area are collected and
analyzed throughout the year. The changes in water chemistry as a function of distance from the
discharge point are monitored by sampling along lines perpendicular to the discharge pipe, extending to
distances up to 1000 meters. Such transects are made in the former sedge-willow area, along the central
axis of the wetland.
The transect concentration profiles are all similar. Water flow carries materials a greater distance in the
downgradient (positive) direction than in the upgradient direction. Through the early years of operation,
the zone of concentration reduction increased in size; background concentrations are now reached at
distances of about 500 meters downstream of the discharge. The advance of nutrient concentration fronts
during the application of wastewater is illustrated by tracking the location of phosphorus drop-off.
Concentrations in excess of 1.0 mg/liter were confined to within 440 meters of the discharge point in
1990. It appears that nutrient removal processes are stabilizing.
Nitrogen species
include organic,
ammonium and
nitrogen. The
wetland microorganisms convert
nitrate to nitrogen
gas. Other bacteria
nitrogen to
ammonium, which
is in short supply;
both for the natural
wetland and for
the fertilized zone.
Large amounts are
incorporated in
new soils and in extra biomass.
Because the irrigation zone is imbedded in a natural wetland of larger extent, care must be taken in the
definition of the size of the treatment portion of this larger wetland. A zone extending 300 meters
upstream and 700 meters downstream, spanning the entire 1000 meter width of the wetland, encompasses
the treatment zone with room to spare. Nutrient removal is essentially complete within this zone; some
background concentrations will always be present in outflows.
The reductions in dissolved nutrient concentrations are not due to dilution, as may be seen from the water
budgets. There are summers in
which rainfall exceeds
evapotranspiration, but on
average there are evaporative
losses, which would lead to
concentration increases in the
absence of wetland interactions.
It is possible to elucidate the
mechanisms by which waterborne substances are removed in
this freshwater wetland
ecosystem. There are three
major categories of removal
processes: biomass increases,
burial, and gasification. The
production of increased biomass
due to nutrient stimulation is a
long-term temporary sink for
assimilable substances. Accretion of new organic soils represents a more permanent sink for structural
and sorbed components. A few species, notably nitrogen, carbon and sulfur compounds, may be released
to the atmosphere, and thus are lost from the water and the wetland. Mass balance models have been
constructed that adequately characterize these processes on both short and long term bases.
Some substances in the wastewater do not interact as strongly with the wetland as do nutrients. Chloride,
calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium all display elevated values in the discharge affected zone.
Chloride, especially, moves freely through the wetland to the outlet streams.
Oxygen levels in the pumped water are good, approximately a 6 mg/l average. In the irrigation zone,
levels are typically 1-2 mg/l in surface waters. The surrounding, unaffected wetland usually has high DO,
representing conditions near saturation. The zone of depressed oxygen increased in size as the affected
area increased, as indicated by the advance of an oxygen front both upgradient and downgradient. In
addition, the diurnal cycle appeared to be suppressed in the irrigation zone.
Redox potentials indicate that the sediments are anaerobic in the irrigation area, even at quite shallow
depths. Steep gradients occur, leading to sulfate and nitrate reduction zones, and even to a
methanogenesis zone, only a few centimeters deep into the sediments and litter.
Treatment Area and Nutrient reductions
DIN = Dissolved Inorganic Nitrogen = Nitrate plus Ammonium Nitrogen TP = Total Phosphorus.
Area, ha
DIN, mg/l
TP, mg/l
Soils and Sediments
Wastewater solids are relatively small in amount and deposit near the discharge. Incoming suspended
solids average about 25 mg/l, and the wetland functions at levels of about 5-10 mg/l. But internal
processes in both natural and fertilized wetlands produce large amounts of detrital material, thus
complicating the concept of "suspended solids removal".
Some fraction of each year's plant litter does not decompose, but
becomes new organic soil. It is joined by detritus from algal and
microbial populations. Such organic sediments contain significant
amounts of structural components, but in addition are good sorbents
for a number of dissolved constituents. The accretion of soils and
sediments thus contributes to the effectiveness of the wetland for
water purification. The natural wetland accreted organic soils at the
rate of a two to three millimeters per year, as determined from
carbon-14 and cesium-137 radiotracer techniques. The wastewater
has stimulated this process to produce a net of ten millimeters per
year of new organics in the discharge area. The maximum
accumulation rate is located a short distance downflow from the
Sediment fall in the discharge area totals several millimeters per
After more than a decade, sediment
and litter accumulation total about 15
year, and this combines with
wetland leaf litterfall to produce a
large amount of large and small
detritus. The majority of this
detritus decomposes each year, but
there is an undecomposable
fraction. The result of continued
generation and deposition of
sediments, combined with the
accumulation of the mineralized
fraction of leaf and stem litter, is the
accretion of new organic soil.
Part of the sediments are
suspendible, and are transported by
the flowing water. The rate of travel
caused by sequential suspension and sedimentation is much slower than the rate of water flow; solids
move only some tens of meters per year.
Estimated mass balances for particulate, transportable solids indicate the large internal cycle
superimposed on net removal for the wetland.
Many changes have occurred in the composition, abundance and standing crops of the wetland plants in
the zone of nutrient removal. There are two observable manifestations of the wastewater addition:
elevated nutrient concentrations in the surface waters, and alterations of the size, type and relative
abundance of the aboveground vegetation. Vegetative changes occur in response to changes in hydraulic
regime (depth and duration of inundation) and to changes in water nutrient status. The treatment area is
taken to be the greater of these two measurable areas for each year.
When a wetland becomes the recipient of
waters with higher nutrient content than those
it has been experiencing, there is a response
of the vegetation, both in species
composition and in total biomass. The
increased availability of nutrients produces
more vegetation during the growing season,
which in turn means more litter during the
non-growing season. This litter requires
several years to decay, and hence the total
pool of living and dead material grows
slowly over several years to a new and higher
value. A significant quantity of nitrogen and
phosphorus and other chemical constituents are thus retained, as part of the living and dead tissues, in the
wetland. This response at the point of discharge in the Houghton Lake wetland has been slow and large.
Below ground biomass responded differently from above ground biomass, however. Original vegetation
required greatly reduced root biomass in the presence of added nutrients; 1500 gm/m2 versus 4000.
However, the sedges initially present were replaced by cattail, which has a root biomass of 4000 gm/m2.
Approximately 65 hectares of the wetland have been affected in terms of visual vegetative change. Some
plant species - leatherleaf and sedge—have been nearly all lost in the discharge area, presumably due to
shading by other species and the altered water regime. Sedges in the discharge zone went through a large
increase followed by a crash to extinction. Species composition within the discharge area is no longer
determined by earlier vegetative patterns; cattail and duckweed have totally taken over. Cattail has
extended its range out to about 600 meters along the central water track.
The cattail cover type did not exist in enough abundance (1.76% of the peatland area) to warrant study in
pre-irrigation years, but was present in many locations (17% of all test plots). The early years of
wastewater addition produced a variable but increasing annual peak standing crop of cattail. This change
has been completed in the irrigation area, and there is no space for more plants, nor can they grow any
The willows and bog birch are decreasing in numbers in the irrigation area. The fraction standing dead is
low because the dead shrubs are pulled down by the falling cattail. Nonetheless, a high fraction of the
standing stems are now dead. Further, the number of surviving clumps of stems is decreasing.
The aspen community near the pipeline completely succumbed in 1983. A second aspen island, located
500 meters downgradient, had also totally succumbed by 1984. The aspen on the edges of the peatland
have died in backgradient and side locations where the shore slopes gradually. The alteration of the water
regime has caused tree death along much of the wetland perimeter, in a band up to 50 meters wide at a
few locations. Long-dead timber at these locations indicates that similar events may have occurred
naturally in the past.
Public Use
The project was not designed for purposes of public use, but a set of
regular users has evolved. The site serves several organizations as a
field classroom. Each year, the sixth grade science classes from the
Houghton Lake School pay visits—and ask the best questions.
Ducks Unlimited and the Michigan United Conservation Clubs also
schedule trips to the wetland. The Michigan Department of Natural
Resources includes field trips to the system as part of their annual
training course. And, Central Michigan University conducts a
portion of its wetlands course at the site.
Many visitors, some from as far as New Zealand, come to inspect
the treatment facility to learn of its performance.
The authorized operating period is set to allow deer hunting: the
discharge is stopped in September to permit the wetland to "relax"
from the influence of pumping. The bow-and-arrow season in
October, and the rifle season in November, both find numerous
hunters on and near the wetlands. Those hunters receive a
questionnaire, which has demonstrated nearly unanimous
acceptance of the project. The only complaint is that the boardwalk allows too easy access to the
Duck hunting and muskrat trapping have occurred on an intermittent basis. These activities are new to
this wetland, which was formerly too dry to support waterfowl and muskrats.
In addition to game species, coyotes, bobcats and raccoons frequent the
wetland. Small mammals include a variety of mice, voles and shrews.
The relative numbers have shifted with time in the discharge area;
generally there are now fewer and different small mammals. The number
of muskrats has increased greatly in the irrigation zone.
Bird populations have also changed. The undisturbed wetland (1973)
contained 17 species, dominated by swamp sparrows, marsh wrens and
yellowthroats. In 1991, the irrigation zone had 19 species, dominated by
tree swallows, red wing blackbirds and swamp sparrows.
Insect species and numbers fluctuate from year to year, with no
discernible pattern. In some years there are fewer mosquitoes near the
discharge; in other years they are more numerous there. There are
typically more midges in the discharge zone, and fewer mayflies,
caddisflies and dragonflies.
The project operates under two permits: an NPDES permit for the surface water discharge, and a special
use permit for the wetlands.
The Michigan Water Resources Commission issues the NPDES permit in compliance with the Federal
Water Pollution Control Act. Both the irrigation fields and the wetlands are permitted. The wetlands part
of the permit establishes three classes of sampling locations: the effluent from the storage or
dechlorination ponds, a row of sampling stations approximately 800 meters downgradient from the
discharge pipeline in the wetland (Figure 1), and steamflows exiting the wetland. Lagoon discharges are
monitored weekly; interior points and stream outflows are measured monthly. Each location has its own
parameter list (Table 3). The interior wetland stations are the early warning line. Background water
quality was established in pre-project research. Target values are set which are the basis for assessing the
water quality impacts at the interior stations.
The special use permit is issued by the Wildlife Division of the Michigan Department of Natural
Resources. Under this permit, the Roscommon County Department of Public Works is granted
permission to maintain a water transporting pipe across State-owned lands, maintain a wooden walkway
on the peatlands to support a water distribution pipe, and to distribute secondarily treated effluent onto
the peatlands. Under the terms of this permit, if circumstances arise that are detrimental to plant and
animal life, the project comes under immediate review. Detrimental circumstances include detection of
toxic materials, excessive levels of pathogenic organisms and excessive water depths. There has not been
such an occurrence. This permit also requires monitoring of plant and animal populations, hydrology and
water quality.
Water samples were collected for analysis at the points of input and output from the wetland for purposes
of compliance monitoring. Water chemistry data for these inflows and outflows shows no significant
increases in the nitrogen or phosphorus in the wetland waters at these exit locations.
Table3. Permit Monitoring Points and Target Values
L = Lagoon Discharge I = Wetland Interior O = Stream Outflow
L, I, O 28 mg/l
I, O
8.0 SU
Ammonium Nitrogen
L, I, O 0.7 mg/l
3 mg/l
Nitrate Nitrogen
L, I, O 0.04 mg/l 0.12 mg/l
Nitrite Nitrogen
L, I, O 0.008 mg/l 0.1 mg/l
Total Phosphorus
L, O
Total Dissolved Phospohorus L, I, O 0.05 mg/l 0.5 mg/l
L, O
Suspended Solids
Fecal Coliforms
Operator Opinions
Mr. Brett Yardley, operator of the facility, believes "It is a great system. It has low maintenance, and is
good for the community." Importantly, he feels that the regulators (Michigan DNR) are "on my side."
The comments he receives are all positive.
Clean Waters Award 1974, 1985
Michigan Outdoor Writers Association
Award of Merit 1977
Michigan Consulting Engineers Council
Award for Engineering Excellence 1977
American Consulting Engineers Council
State of Michigan Sesquicentennial Award 1987
Michigan Society of Professional Engineers
The treatment facility is operated by:
Mr. Brett Yardley
Houghton Lake Sewer Authority
P. O. Box 8
1250 S. Harrison Road
Houghton Lake, MI 48629
Wildlife and land use considerations are coordinated by:
Mr. Rich Earle
Research/Surveys Section Head
Houghton Lake Wildlife Research Station
Box 158
Houghton Lake Heights, MI 48630
Research is conducted and archived by: Dr. Robert H. Kadlec
Wetland Ecosystem Research Group
Department of Chemical Engineering
Dow Building
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2136
Several thousand pages of documentation exist for this project. The principal categories of documents
* Annual reports. Each operating year: compliance monitoring results; research results
for vegetation, hydrology, internal water chemistry; and research results for all types of
animals, insects, and invertebrates.
* Research reports. Background studies and pilot system performance are contained in
several reports and monographs.
* Technical papers. Forty published papers appear in a wide variety of literature sources,
and involve many authors.
* Dissertations. Fourteen MS and PhD theses have originated from the project.
Note: This information is provided for reference purposes only.
Although the information provided here was accurate and current
when first created, it is now outdated.
Disclaimer: The information in this website is entirely drawn from a 1993 publication, and has not
been updated since the original publication date. Users are cautioned that information reported at that
time may have become outdated.
Cannon Beach, OR - Wooded Wetlands for
Wastewater Treatment
The History of the Project
Construction and Operation
Costs and Benefits
A Nature Study Guide
The History of the Project
Ducks, geese, elk? These are not usual inhabitants of a
wastewater treatment system. But in Cannon Beach, Oregon,
particularly in the fifteen acres of the wooded wetlands cells of
the system, they are a common sight. How did this come to
Let's look a little closer. The City of Cannon Beach had a
problem--how to treat and dispose of its wastewater. With much
citizen involvement, a cost-effective ecologically-interactive
wastewater treatment facility was created. This Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) funded "Innovative/Alternative"
treatment system uses an existing wooded wetland to provide
the final stage of the treatment process.
Confrontation led to a City commitment to
pursue a biological solution instead of
more high-tech treatment units to upgrade
the treatment system.
Here's the story. The three-celled sewer lagoon complex in
existence at the time of the passage of the Clean Water Act of
1972 could not meet the more stringent effluent quality
standards set by the Oregon Department of Environmental
Quality (DEQ). In response to this situation, the City began a
Facilities Plan. The completed plan recommended options for
system upgrading which met with considerable community
At this point in 1977, a Sewer Advisory Board was formed. The
Effluent structures during winter flooding City of Cannon Beach is a resort community and during the
(when wetlands are typically not
tourist season the population swells from a permanent size of
1,200 to many times that number. Any design considered by the
Sewer Advisory Board would have to be able to accommodate
these large fluctuations in wastewater flows.
Confrontation led to a City commitment to pursue a biological solution instead of more high-tech
treatment units to upgrade the treatment system. The bureaucratic struggle that ensued lasted eight years
and the remarkable result of these meetings was the consolidation of a set of ideas which emerged as yet
another facility plan addendum. The issues deliberated included: the use and integrity of the wetlands,
elk habitat, chlorination, point of discharge, birdlife, the extent of ecological upset, berming and baffling,
fencing costs, and the risks of using new treatment techniques. It is a tribute to the professionals
representing the various agencies involved in these meetings that, in spite of diverse and sometimes
disparate responsibilities and divergent goals, negotiations took place in a spirit of cooperation and
compromise sufficient to allow development of an approvable treatment scheme.
This scheme, the wetlands marsh wastewater treatment
system, appeared in draft Facilities Plan Addendum No. 2 in
October, 1981 and became final in March, 1982. The Plan
subsequently was adopted by the City Council and
approved by all the appropriate agencies through the State
Clearinghouse review process. Shortly thereafter, a grant
application was completed and submitted to the DEQ and
EPA and approval of funding for the project was granted in
September, 1982.
Typical vegetation in the majority of the
wetlands (brush, sedges, and ferns).
1998 Dry Weather Design
Population, Flows and Loading
Population Equivalents4085
0.68 mgd
Ave. Detention Time 7-15 days
817 lbs/day
817 lbs/day
Wooded Wetland
How does the treatment facility work?
Contrary to popular belief, raw sewage, or
wastewater as engineers prefer to call it, is
over 99% pure water. About half of it
comes from toilets and most of the rest is
from kitchen sinks, showers, bathtubs, and
washing machines. The Cannon Beach
treatment system consists of a four-celled
lagoon complex followed by two wooded
wetland cells which serve as a natural
effluent polishing system.
The objective of the wetland treatment is to
meet water quality requirements with
minimal disturbance to the existing wildlife
habitat. Dikes, containing water control
structures, formed the wetland cells, constituting the only physical alteration to the natural wetland. The
fifteen acres of wetlands are primarily red alder, slough sedge and twinberry, including the remnants of
an old growth spruce forest. These wetlands act as a natural filter to complete the treatment process, and
the wildlife is not disturbed.
0.42 g/ac/day
14 lbs/ac/day
18 lbs/ac/day
Design of the wooded wetland wastewater treatment system, along with improvements to the existing
lagoon system, began in December, 1982. The design of treatment system improvements and the wetland
system centered around meeting stringent effluent limitations imposed by the DEQ. Technically
speaking, the wastewater treatment focuses primarily on the reduction of both biochemical oxygen
demand (BOD) and suspended solids (TSS). The average monthly limitations were 10 mg/l of BOD and
TSS during dry weather and 30 mg/l of BOD and 50 mg/l of TSS above Ecola Creek background levels
during wet weather.
The principal mechanisms in achieving BOD and TSS reductions in wetland systems are sedimentation
and microbial metabolism. Absence of sunlight in the canopy covered wooded wetland contributes to
significant algae die-off and subsequent decomposition. The two-celled wetland system was designed
with multiple influent ports into the first cell, multiple gravity overflow into the second cell, and a single
discharge from the second cell to Ecola Creek. Each cell was designed with approximately 8.0 acres
surface area to be operated in series.
Improvements to the existing lagoon system were to provide capacity through the design year of 1998.
They centered around three major improvements: upgrading the hydraulic capacity of the system;
decreasing the loading to the facultative lagoon system with the addition of an aerated lagoon; and
adding a chlorine contact chamber to provide adequate disinfection before discharging to the wetland
marsh system.
The operational strategy developed around: 1) operating the
upgraded facultative lagoon system during the wet weather period
of the year, and 2) operating the aerated/facultative lagoon system
along with the wooded wetland system during the dry weather
Effluent structures and vegetation l$ in
north dike.
Chlorine contact
1, 2, 3 Facultative Lagoons
Winter outfall pipe
Cell 1, Cell Wetland treatment
S Sludge disposal pits
Aeration Basin
Construction and Operation
Construction of the wastewater facility improvements began in July 1983 and the facility officially began
operation in June 1984 when flows from the facultative lagoons were initially pumped into the wetland.
The system was initially operated with the aerated lagoon effluent flowing in series to the three
facultative lagoons, with chlorinated effluent pumped to the wetland cells which were operated in series.
The discharge from the system into Ecola Creek is approximately 25% to 50% of the influent flow with
the remainder lost through evapotranspiration and seepage. The wetlands cells were initially operated at
an approximate average depth of one foot and a detention time of 10-14 days.
Lagoon effluent BOD and TSS have averaged 27 mg/l and 51 mg/l respectively, while the wetlands
effluent BOD and TSS averaged 6 mg/l and 11 mg/l respectively. Background water quality in Ecola
Creek has averaged 6 mg/l BOD and 13 mg/l TSS. The wetland removes an average of 12% of the
influent BOD while removing 26% of influent TSS. Operating efficiency has improved over time with
respect to BOD and TSS. In 1991, an average of only 3 mg/l of BOD was discharged. For TSS, the past
two years have shown average discharge concentrations of 2 and 5 mg/l respectively. These rates were
significantly lower than those of five out of the first six years of operation.
Costs and Benefits
The system has been a success. Performance of the
system has exceeded expectations as the effluent has
come close to meeting the 10/10 effluent limitations
without considering the background water quality. The
City has met its monthly permit requirements with only
one exception with respect to concentrations in the first
eight years of operation. The water quality impact on
the creek has been significant, only 25% of the mass
discharge loading directly reaches the creek.
The capital costs of the total system improvements
were $1.5 million in 1983. Of that, approximately 40%
was classified innovative and alternative under the
provisions of the Federal Clean Water Act, thus higher
funding was provided by EPA. The City received an
approximate 80% grant from the EPA. A significant
portion of the City’s share has been financed through a
loan from Farmers Home Administration.
The total Sewer Department’s 1992-1993 budget is
approximately $600,000. The total operational costs of
Elk browse on their long-time path to Ecola Creek,
the pond/wetland treatment facility represents
along the edge of the wooded wastewater wetland,
approximately 12% of this figure. Staff includes one
just 700 feet from downtown Cannon Beach.
full-time operator who devotes approximately half of
Click on picture for larger image.
his time to plant operation and laboratory work, a
weekend public works utility person, and a summer student intern.
Sewer billings are based on water usage, using a base rate of $7.50 for the first 600 cubic feet and $1.25
for each additional 100 cubic feet. This rate has remained unchanged since 1983. A 10% across-theboard increase is currently under consideration.
A Nature Study Guide
Treatment of facultative lagoon effluent through the use of a natural wooded wetland has been
demonstrated as an effective method over the eight years of operation. The City’s direct discharge to
Ecola Creek has been reduced and it’s quality has been improved resulting in improved water quality for
the creek. The capital, operation, and maintenance costs utilizing the wetland treatment system are
significantly less than alternative systems. The treatment lagoons and wetland cells are a physical reality
and an integral part of the City. Involvement in this sewerage project has resulted in a heightened
awareness of the physical setting in which we live, the biological processes of which we are a part, and
the society in which we function.
The City has cooperated with the school system in setting up a
partnership. Educational materials that integrate social studies
and science have been developed cooperatively using a City
liaison person and resource teacher. As well as serving as a
nature study site, the treatment marsh has been the focus of
programs devised by Citizen Education. Waterfowl have been
monitored by citizen effort. Tours are conducted for
environmentally oriented classes, for groups of teachers, for
sewer operators, for those seeking wastewater treatment
solutions for their communities and for local citizens, as well as
any interested individuals.
The organic nature of the sewerage facilities, the lack of
offensive odor and the open layout of the facility contribute to a
land use scheme that has a minimal disruption to the
environment. Very few visitors realize that the City's sewerage
facilities are just 700 feet from the downtown shopping area! Within the site, the stream flows, trees and
plants grow, and animals and birds come and go. Numerous species of wild ducks can be seen on the
lagoons, elk can be seen in the wetlands area, fishing, walking, and bird watching take place here.
Within the site, the stream flows, trees and
plants grow, and animals and birds come
and go.
This brochure is dedicated to the memory of Don Thompson, "The Thinker and the Doer of the Cannon Beach Sewer."
Contributors--Dan Elek, Jerry Minor and Francesca Demgen
Produced by--Woodward-Clyde Consultants
Graphic Design--Chris Dunn
EPA Project Manager--Robert Bastian
Note: This information is provided for reference purposes only.
Although the information provided here was accurate and current
when first created, it is now outdated.
Disclaimer: The information in this website is entirely drawn from a 1993 publication, and has not
been updated since the original publication date. Users are cautioned that information reported at that
time may have become outdated.
Vermontville, Michigan - Reuse of Municipal
Wastewater by Volunteer Freshwater Wetlands
Water Quality
Operating and Maintenance Activities
Vermontville is a rural
community located 25 miles
southwest of Lansing. The
local maple syrup industry is
active; each year a festival
brings thousands of visitors
to this community of 825
residents. Vermontville
considers itself “the sweetest
little town in Michigan.”
There is no evidence of the
high growth and bustle of
more urban areas; in fact the
local Amish folk tie up their
horses and buggies on Main
Street. Mayor Beverly Sue
Billanueva runs the town and
its only restaurant.
Figure 1
Layout of the Vermontville wastewater treatment system. Inflow may be directed to
either of the two lagoons. The lagoons are discharged into wetlands 1-3. Wetland 4
no longer receives a direct discharge; but seepage water from the uphill units reemerges into wetland 4.
The Clean Water Act of the early 1970’s dictated that Vermontville upgrade its wastewater treatment
capabilities. In common with many other small communities, Vermontville could not afford to own or
operate a “high tech” physical-chemical wastewater treatment plant. But it was situated to utilize the landintensive natural systems technology, and decided to do so. In 1972, they opted for facultative lagoons
followed by seepage beds. Those seepage beds unexpectedly became wetlands, a system which works
remarkably well and is liked by the operators.
System Description
The municipal wastewater treatment system at Vermontville, Michigan consists of two facultative
stabilization ponds of 10.9 acres (4.4 ha), followed by four diked surface (flood) irrigation fields of 11.5
acres (4.6 ha) constructed on silty-clayey soils. The system is located on a hill with the ponds uppermost
and the fields at descending elevations (Figure 1). After 1991, the nineteenth year of operation, the fields
are totally overgrown with volunteer emergent aquatic vegetation, mainly cattail. The system was
designed for 0.1 MGD and a life of twenty years. It is presently operated at about three-quarters of design
The Vermontville system was intended, in the conceptual stages, to provide phosphorus removal both by
harvesting of terrestrial grasses and by soil-water contact as wastewater seeps downward from the
irrigation fields. Up to four inches of water applied over several hours time once each week would flood
the fields briefly until the water seeped away. The upper pond (Lagoon 1, Figure 1), has separate
discharge lines into fields 1 and 2, and the lower pond (Lagoon 2) has separate discharge lines into fields
3 and 4. Fields 1-4 have all been colonized by volunteer wetland vegetation, and are now eutrophic
emergent marshes.
wastewater is
released into each
wetland by gravity
flow through 10-in.
(0.25 m) main and 8in (0.2m) manifold
pipe having several
ground level outlets
in each wetland. The
lagoons and
wetlands are
terraced on a steep
hillside (Figure 2),
Figure 2
providing ample
Cross section of the Vermontville wastewater treatment system. The units are set on a steep
driving force for
hillside, with large driving forces for hte gravity flow from lagoons to wetlands. Elevations
shown on the left are in feet above sea level. Overflow occurs out of wetland 4 to the right.
gravity flow. Should
the water level
exceed 6 in. (15.2 cm), water would overflow to the next wetland by means of standpipe drain. All
applied water would seep into the ground before leaving the treatment area.
The system is operating nearly in this manner today. There is a constant surface overflow from the final
wetland, made up of ground-recycled wastewater which enters the final field at springs. The direct surface
overflow from wetland 3 has been taken out of service. Essentially, the system is a seepage wetland
complex and very similar to a conventional flood irrigation facility. The vegetation and relatively small
surface overflow from the final wetland provides an established system in which to evaluate the treatment
aspects of seepage combined with lateral flow-through wetlands, the potential nutrient removal and
wildlife values of these strictly voluntary wastewater wetland, and the economics of the system.
A thorough study of water quality and other aspects of system was conducted in 1978, by Dr. Jeffrey
Sutherland of Williams and Works and Professor Frederick Bevis of Grand Valley University. This work
was sponsored by The National Science Foundation.
During 1990, approximately 29 MG of wastewater was introduced into the lagoons. This was a dry year.
Evaporation exceeded rainfall and snowmelt, leaving only about 22 MG to discharge to wetlands 1, 2,
and 3. There was no lagoon discharge to wetland 4. About 7 MG were lost to evaporation in the wetland
cells, 13 MG infiltrated to groundwater, and 2 MG overflowed from wetland 4 to the receiving stream.
Wetland 4 receives its water from interior springs fed by the groundwater mound under the upgradient
wetlands, most importantly wetland 3. The direct discharge to wetland 4 was discontinued, since it was
in close proximity to the system outflow point, and was clearly short-circuiting water across wetland 4.
Effluent discharged from the system has therefore passed through the lagoons, then through the upper
wetlands, the soils under the site, and finally through the last wetland.
The facility operates under an NPDES Permit issued by Michigan DNR. The outflow from wetland 4 is
to an unnamed tributary of the Thornapple River, which is protected for agricultural uses, navigation,
industrial water supply, public water supply at the point of water intake, warm water fish and total body
contact recreation. There are presently no industrial dischargers. The discharge limitations from the
treatment wetlands
Table 1. Discharge limitations for the Vermontville wastewater treatment facility.
Daily Minimum Daily Maximum 30-Day Average
17 mg/l
4/15-4/30 .
25 mg/l
14 lb/d
5 mg/l
5/1-9/30 .
10 mg/l
4.2 lb/d
11 mg/l
10/1-10/31 .
16 mg/l
9.2 lb/d
20 mg/l
30 mg/l
7 mg/l
5/1-9/30 .
2.2 mg/l
5 mg/l
1.0 mg/l
All Year .
0.83 lb/d
5 mg/l
6 mg/l
5 mg/l
All Year
7-Day Average
21 lb/d
8.3 lb/d
13.3 lb/d
30 mg/l
45 mg/l
Water Quality
Compliance Monitoring
The overflow from final
wetland field 4 contains a
fairly constant volume of
effluent which has seeped
from the higher elevation
wetlands, flowed through the
ground, and entered field 4
springs. This treated effluent
is of high quality, as is the
ground water recovered from
the project's monitoring
wells. The outflow is
monitored weekly. Total
Figure 3
outflow from the wetlands, but the seasonal
suspended solids (TSS) was
averages are quite low; 3.5 mg/l for CBOD; 4.2 mg/l for TSS. (Data are for 1990)
well within permit limits at
all times during 1990 (Figure
3), indicating that the wetlands had effectively filtered and settled particulate material.
Carbonaceous biological oxygen demand (CBOD) also remained within 30-day average permit limits in
1990, and there was only one excedance of the seven-day permit limit of 5 mg/l. The CBOD load in the
surface discharge was less than 10% of that allowed by the permit.
Figure 4.
The nutrients phosphorus and ammonium nitrogen were well within limits in the
Total phosphorus in the
surface discharge was also
well within permit limits,
with an average 1990 value
of 0.24 mg/l compared to the
permit level of 1.0 mg/l
(Figure 4). The same was true
for ammonium nitrogen,
which averaged 0.86 mg/l
compared to the 2.2 mg/l
permit requirement. Both
phosphorus and nitrogen
display considerable
variability, which is
characteristic of many
wetland systems. The
wetland outflow in 1990. The seasonal average total phosphorus was 0.24 mg/l;
ammonium nitrogen averaged 0.86 mg/l.
seasonal trends in ammonium
nitrogen—an increase
followed by a
decrease—have been observed at other sites, and are therefore probably real. They are likely due to the
changing processes of plant uptake and decomposition. Figure 3. Both CBOD and TSS fluctuate in the
outflow from the wetlands, but the seasonal averages are quite low; 3.5 mg/l for CBOD; 4.2 mg/l for
TSS. (Data are for 1990) Dissolved oxygen averaged 7.0 mg/l in 1990, with a range from 5.4 to 9.4,
which included a four excedances of minor nature. pH ranged from 6.6 to 7.2, well within the permit
range. Fecal coliform counts (Figure 5) are within limits for surface water discharges, but are higher than
at other comparable wetland sites.
Research Results
Some of the more detailed
water quality results for
1978 are summarized in
Figure 6. Greater than twofold dilution across the
system was evident in the
decreasing chloride
concentration from 280 mg/l
in the effluent to 124 mg/l in
the ground water. Pond
effluent was 25% diluted
with respect to influent.
Although a few inches of
precipitation in excess of
evaporation from the ponds
Figure 5
Fecal coliform bacteria counts also fluctuate in the outflow from the wetlands, but occurred during the summer,
the 25% dilution was more
the seasonal average is quite low; the geometric mean value was 77 (Data are for
importantly due to excessive
snow and ice meltwater
added to the ponds in spring 1978. The 25% dilution between the pond effluent and the water standing in
the wetlands was due principally to a large number of sampling dates coinciding with significant rainfall.
Greater than 20 inches (50.8 cm) of rain fell in the 4 1¼2 months from June to mid October, which was
approximately 50% higher than the normal rate. The decrease in concentration between irrigation fields
and ground water was due to mixing of wastewater with more dilute ambient ground water.
Phosphorus was removed to the extent of around 97% between the wetland fields and the ground water,
which was sampled from monitoring wells placed at depths ranging from roughly 10 ft. to 25 ft. (3.0 m to
7.6 m) below the wetland floors. Most removal of phosphorus occurs in the upper 3 ft. (0.9 m) of soils
judging from a small number of lysimeter samples which averaged 0.11 mg/l total P and 0.06 mg/l orthoP, with ranges of 0-0.3 mg/l and 0-0.2 mg/l, respectively. The average removals of phosphorus effected
in the upper 3 ft. (0.9 m) of soils
were approximately 95%.
Levels of nitrate-nitrogen
increased approximately 60%
between the pond discharge and
the wetland standing water,
indicating that aerobic bacteria
were at work in the wetland
waters. On the other hand, the
sediments were anaerobic as
evidenced in the fetid odor
which evolved when they were
disturbed. Loss of some of the
nitrate by denitrification was
apparently occurring. Lysimeter
samples showed nitrate-nitrogen
ranging from 0.0 to 0.9 mg/l,
Figure 6
which suggested that
Profiles of water quality in 1978. Lagoons and wetlands and soils are
denitrification of approximately
functioning to remove nutrients in this system. During the early life of the
60% of the nitrate occurred in
facility, there were lagoon discharges directly to wetland 4; and there was
surface overflow directed from wetland 3 to wetland 4. This resulted in some
the shallow wetland soils. The
short-circuiting to the surface outflow; and consequently higher phosphorus
ambient ground water contained
numbers than in the present mode of operation.
higher levels of nitrate-nitrogen
than did the seeping wastewater,
perhaps indicating some further nitrification during passage through the soil.
Levels of TKN and ammonia-nitrogen seemed not to change much between the pond discharge and the
wetland waters. But this constancy was likely only apparent, with organic nitrogen and ammonia
probably being produced through anaerobic decomposition in the wetland sediments and being consumed
in the aerobic wetland waters.
The wetlands were observed to contain eight plant communities in 1978. These included areas dominated
by grassland, duckweed, cattail and willow. In 1991, the grassland and duckweed communities were no
longer significant. The wetlands are now dominated entirely by cattail and willow shrubs and trees.
Standing crops (above ground plant parts) for the wetlands varied from a minimum of 830 to over 2,200
gm/m2 in the wetlands in 1978. Visual estimates in 1991 indicate that the standing crops are presently
somewhat higher than that maximum, and more uniform. There appears to be approximately 3,000
gm/m2 at all locations, not counting trees. Because the wetlands are located on an exposed hillside,
winds can and do blow down the cattails. The result is a patchy stand of cattail, about three meters in
height where it is erect, and flat on the surface elsewhere.
The phosphorus in the prevailing cattail standing crop is significant compared to the phosphorus released
into the wetlands. Cattail harvesting would therefore be a means of reducing effluent phosphorus. But
harvesting is not needed for phosphorus removal in seepage wetland settings where subsurface soil types
and volumes are adequate to effect phosphorus removal before effluent ground water reaches receiving
streams. The expense and difficulty of harvesting further preclude its use at Vermontville.
Casual observation reveals the wastewater-grown wetlands have significantly added to the acreage of
suitable, adequately isolated habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife in the Vermontville area. Natural,
interrupted zones of attached aquatic plant life fringe the nearby Thornapple River, but these are narrow,
small and easily accessible to fisherman and other recreationists. The wastewater wetlands are part of a
restricted public access area.
The Vermontville volunteer wetland system created marshland habitat suitable for waterfowl production
otherwise not present in the immediate area. Many other types of birds also nest in the marshes,
including red-wing blackbirds, American coot, and American goldfinch. Waterfowl (blue-winged teal
and mallard), shorebirds (gallinule, killdeer, lesser yellow-legs, and sandpiper) and swallows use the
wetland pond system for feeding and/or resting during their migration. Great blue heron, green heron,
ring-neck pheasant, and American bittern have also been seen frequenting the wetlands.
These volunteer wetlands are also important habitat for numerous amphibians and reptiles. These include
snapping and painted turtles, garter and milk snakes, green and leopard frogs, bullfrogs and American
toads. Muskrats inhabit the wetlands, while raccoon, whitetail deer, and woodchuck are seen feeding in
the wetlands.
Operating and Maintenance Activities
Very little wetland maintenance has been required at Vermontville. The berms are mowed three or four
times per year, for aesthetic reasons only. Water samples are taken on a weekly frequency at the surface
outflow. The discharge risers within the wetlands are visited and cleaned periodically during the
irrigation season. There is essentially nothing to be vandalized, and there have been no repairs required.
The dikes are monitored for erosion, which has not
been a significant problem. Muskrats build lodges and
dig holes in the dikes; and woodchucks also dig holes
in the berms. Therefore, a trapper is allowed on the site
to remove these animals periodically. The operator also
periodically tears the muskrat lodges apart.
There are no bare soil (tilled) areas to be plugged
through siltation caused by rain splash, spray irrigation,
or flood-suspension of inorganic soils. The
Vermontville wetlands showed buildup of three or four
inches (0.1 m) or organic residues largely in the form of
cattail straw after six irrigation seasons (1972-78). That
litter mat is still of the same thickness today, but is
Wetland number two contains more and larger
Together with the narrow leaved cattail,
accompanied by a small accretion of new organic
these two species dominate the wetland.
sediments and soils. There was one attempt to burn the
accumulated detritus, which proved to be difficult, and
of no value in the system operation or maintenance. The amounts of this material have not compromised
the freeboard design of the embankments over the system’s 19+ year operational period. Tree control has
not been practiced at Vermontville, and the wetlands now contain willow trees up to several meters in
height. No hydraulic problems have been experienced due to these trees, or any other cause.
The Vermontville ponds and wetlands cost $395,000 to build in 1972. Much of this expense was incurred
for grading, because of the uneven topography of the site.
The operating and maintenance costs associated with the wetlands portion of the treatment system are
quite low. In 1978, these were approximately $3,500 per year, of which $2,150 was labor and field costs,
and the balance for water quality analytical services. In 1990, these same costs totalled about $4,200,
including $3,400 for labor and field costs.
The treatment system is under
the supervision of Mr. Tony
Wawiernia, Superintendent,
Department of Public Works,
121 South Main Street,
Vermontville, MI 49096. Phone
(517) 726-1429.
The designers and engineers for
this facility were Williams and
Works, Inc., 611 Cascade West
Parkway S.E., Grand Rapids, MI
Phone (616) 942-9600.
The ponds at Vermontville are set into a hillside that drops off more than 70
feet. This view of lagood 2 shows the high and wide berms that this relief
necessitates. In late summer, these are covered with a profusion of
Professor Fred Bevis visits the site with his students on a regular basis, and collects information on
vegetation and other aspects of the ecosystem. Fred is Chairman of the Department of Biology, Grand
Valley State University, Allendale, MI 49401.
Phone (616) 895-3126.
The 1978 research work is detailed in a report to The National Science Foundation under Grant No. NSF
ENV-20273, May 1978. This report is available from the National Technical Information Service.
Conference reprints summarizing the work were prepared, and may be obtained by contacting Professor
Applied Ecology Group 11628 104th Ave. West Olive, MI 49460-9632
Sutherland, J. C. and F. B. Bevis, 1979. Reuse of Municipal Wastewater by Volunteer Fresh-Water
Wetlands. IN: Proceedings of Wetland Reuse Symposium, Vol. 1, p. 762-781. AWWA Research
Foundation, Denver, CO.
Bevis, F. B., 1979. "Ecological Considerations in the Management of Wastewater-Engendered Volunteer
Wetlands," presented at the Michigan Wetlands Conference, MacMullan Center, Higgins Lake, MI.
A brief summary description also may be found in:
Sutherland, J. C., 1982. "Michigan Wetland Wastewater Tertiary Treatment Systems,"
Chapter 16 in: Water Reuse,
E. J. Middlebrooks, ed., Ann Arbor
Science Publishers, Inc., Ann Arbor, MI.
Note: This information is provided for reference purposes only.
Although the information provided here was accurate and current
when first created, it is now outdated.
Disclaimer: The information in this website is entirely drawn from a 1993 publication, and has not
been updated since the original publication date. Users are cautioned that information reported at that
time may have become outdated.
Arcata, California - A Natural System for
Wastewater Reclamation and Resource
Stage in Treatment Plan
Arcata Marsh and Sanctuary: Points of Interest
...a constructed wetland system can be a cost efficient and environmentally sound wastewater treatment
The constructed wetland system is the cornerstone of
Arcata's urban watershed renovation program. This
program includes major urban stream restoration, log
pond conversion to a swamp habitat, pocket wetlands
on critical reaches of urban streams, and an
anadramous wastewater aquaculture program to
restore critical commercial recreational and ecological
important populations. The Arcata project is a
demonstration of wastewater reuse, ecological
restoration, and reuse of industrial, agricultural and
public service land.
Arcata Site Plan
Situated in the heart of the redwood country and
along the rocky shores of the Pacific Northcoast, the
City of Arcata is located on the northeast shore of
Humboldt Bay in Northern California, 280 miles
north of San Francisco. Arcata, with a population of approximately 15,000, is a diverse community
whose resourcefulness and integrity has demonstrated that a constructed wetland system can be a cost
efficient and environmentally sound wastewater treatment solution. In addition to effectively fulfilling
wastewater treatment needs, Arcata's innovative wetland system has provided an inspiring bay view
window to the benefits of integrated wetland enhancement and wastewater treatment.
What is the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary?
Arcata is a small town located on the north-eastern side of Humboldt Bay, about 280 miles north of San
Francisco. Humboldt Bay is a focal point where timber resources and marine resources cross paths as
they struggle to sustain Humboldt County's economy. Resource management is a practice that receives
high priority and expert advice in this scenic niche of the Pacific Northcoast. Arcata, with a population of
approximately 15,000, is a diverse community whose resourcefulness and integrity has served to lead the
city down a successful path marked by innovative decisions and maintained by pride. So, when the city
faced making a change in their wastewater treatment methods, they demonstrated that a constructed
wetland system can be a cost efficient and environmentally sound wastewater treatment solution. In
addition to effectively fulfilling wastewater treatment
needs, Arcata's innovative wetland system has
provided an inspiring bay view window to the benefits
of integrated wetland enhancement and wastewater
How did the project evolve?
established its
system as a
result of
involvement and a series of political events. In the early 1970's,
Arcata's active wastewater treatment plant discharged
unchlorinated primary effluent into Humboldt Bay. In 1974 the
State of California enacted a policy which prohibited discharge of
wastewater into bays and estuaries unless enhancement of the
receiving water was proven. In response to this policy the local
Humboldt Bay Wastewater Authority proposed the construction of
a state sponsored regional wastewater treatment plant that would serve all the communities in the
Humboldt Bay vicinity. The plant was to have large interceptors around the perimeter of the bay with a
major line crossing under the bay in the region of active navigation. The proposed treatment facility was
energy intensive, with significant operational requirements. Effluent from the proposed plant was to be
released offshore into an area of shifting sea bottom and heavy seas during winter storms. As the scale of
the regional treatment plant grew, the costs and difficulties of incorporating other communities became
Arcata established its innovative treatment system as a result of extensive community involvement and a
series of political events.
Recognizing the constraints of the local environment and criteria for wastewater treatment, the City of
Arcata began exploring the design of a decentralized system which employed constructed wetlands.
Wastewater aquaculture projects at the City of Arcata started as early as 1969 and had been successful in
raising juvenile Pacific Salmon and Trout in mixtures of partially treated wastewater and seawater. This
project demonstrated that wastewater was a "resource" that could be reused and not simply to be viewed
as a disposal problem. With this philosophy a city Task Force on Wastewater Treatment determined that
the natural processes of a constructed wetland system could offer the city an effective and efficient
wastewater treatment system. From 1979 to 1982 the city, and associated proponents of alternative
wastewater treatment, experimented with partially treated wastewater and the natural processes of
wetland ecosystems. These experiments demonstrated that constructed freshwater wetlands could be
utilized to treat Arcata's wastewater and at the same time enhance the biological productivity of the
wetland environment into which treated wastewater was discharged. The Task Force determined that a
constructed wetland system was extremely cost effective. Moreover, a successful system offers the city a
vital wetland ecosystem that could be used for the rearing of salmon and steelhead as well as offer the
community a unique site for recreation and education.
With the aid of the Arcata City Council and political representatives in the state capital, the city received
authorization in 1983 to develop the constructed wetland system and incorporate its use at the original
Arcata Wastewater Treatment Plant. The wetland system that exists today was completed in 1986. Since
that time the natural ability of marsh plants, soils and their associated microorganisms has successfully
been utilized to meet the need for a cost-effective and environmentally sound wastewater treatment
technology that meets federal and state mandated water quality requirements.
Who cares and what are the benefits?
At the same time that wetland wastewater
technology has been used to successfully meet
water quality criteria, it has also aided in restoring
a degraded urban waterfront. Prior to the
installation of its wetland treatment system, the
City of Arcata's waterfront was the site of an
abandoned lumbermill pond, channelized sloughs,
marginal pasture lands, and a closed sanitary
landfill. Today, Arcata's waterfront has been
transformed into 100 acres of freshwater and
saltwater marshes, brackish ponds, tidal sloughs
and estuaries. Because of the wetland
communities and wildlife habitats that the
waterfront now supports, the area in its entirety
has come to be known as the Arcata Marsh and
Wildlife Sanctuary (AMWS.) The AMWS's three
freshwater wetlands are Gearheart, Allen and
Hauser Marshes. They were constructed to
receive treated wastewater, thereby treating the wastewater further and enhancing the receiving water at
the same time. These enhancement marshes are a host of aquatic vegetation that, in association with
Klopp Lake and the adjacent estuaries and ponds, have further provided an extraordinary habitat for
shorebirds, waterfowl, raptors and migratory birds.
As a home or rest stop for over 200 species of birds, the AMWS has developed a reputation as one of the
best birding sites along the Pacific North Coast. The Redwood Region Audubon Society uses the site on
a regular basis for its weekly nature walks. For the past 10 years, docents trained by the Society have
explained the role the wetlands play in attracting birds and mammals, as well a s their role in managing
the water quality of Humboldt Bay. The beauty and uniqueness of the AMWS has served as inspiration
to many artists, whose products range in form from plays and poems to photographs and paintings.
Arcata has become an international model of appropriate and successful wastewater reuse and wetland
enhancement technologies. Over 150,000 people a year use the AMWS for passive recreation, birdwatching, or scientific study. Visitors from around the world have come to Arcata to investigate its
success in wastewater management. Students of all ages and institutions use the AMWS for scientific
study. In 1987, the City of Arcata was selected by the Ford Foundation to receive an award for this
wastewater wetlands project as an innovative local government project. This award included a $100,000
prize to be used to fund the establishment of the Arcata Marsh Interpretive Center. The Center focuses on
the historical, biological and technical aspects of the AMWS, and attempts to meet the informational and
educational demands of the wastewater treatment system.
Today, Arcata's waterfront has been transformed into 100 acres of freshwater and saltwater marshes,
brackish ponds, tidal sloughs and estuaries.
Take a look at some of the living environments of the Arcata resources. (JPG format, 39KB)
Stage in Treatment Plan
Take a look at the Stage in Treatment Plan
Arcata's present wastewater treatment plant consists of seven basic components. These are the
headworks, primary clarification, solids handling, oxidation pond, treatment marshes, enhancement
marshes and disinfection. Each one of these components will be detailed as follows.
Headworks: The "headworks" component of Arcata’s wastewater treatment plant is the first phase in the
treatment of raw sewage and consists of technologies aimed at removing inorganic materials from the
raw sewage. The technologies include two screw pumps that lift the sewage fifteen feet and pass it
through bar screens, a parshall flume (for flow measurement) and grit separators before it enters the
Primary Clarification: Two clarifiers are used to settle out any
remaining suspended material that passes through the headworks.
The liquid form of sewage that results from clarification flows to
the oxidation ponds, completing primary treatment. The solids
that settle out in the clarifiers are pumped to the digesters.
Sludge Pumping and Stabilization/Cogeneration: The sludge
from the clarifiers is pumped first to the primary digester and then
the secondary digester. The digestors mix the sludge by
recirculating methane gas with compressors. The digestors were
designed in conjunction with a methane recovery and
cogeneration system. The cogeneration component is designed
burn the methane gas and utilize the heat to aid in the digestion
Oxidation Pond: The oxidation ponds efficiently remove
approximately 50 percent of the BOD and suspended solids that
remain after primary treatment. Long detention times and natural
processes (see diagram showing plant and animal roles) accomplish these reductions.
Treatment Marshes: The treatment marshes reduce the levels of suspended solids and BOD
concentrations that remain in the oxidation pond effluent. The three, two-acre treatment marshes in
operation are located north of the oxidation ponds. They were created by subdividing the previous
oxidation ponds. All treatment marshes were planted with hardstem bulrush (Scirpus acutus), a
freshwater marsh plant native to the Humboldt Bay area. This plant’s effectiveness as a treatment species
was shown by Marsh Pilot Project data. The treatment marsh’s effluent is combined at a pump station
where it is pumped to the disinfection facility.
Enhancement Marshes: After the first chlorination, wastewater is directed to the enhancement marshes,
which are located northwest of the oxidation ponds. The three enhancement marshes cover a total of 31
acres. These marshes are managed to maintain the greatest diversity of aquatic plant species and to
maintain or improve water quality. Flow is directed through the enhancement marshes with sluice gates
and wooden stop-log weirs. After disinfection, the wastewater flows into George Allen Marsh, then
Robert Gearheart Marsh, and finally Dan Hauser Marsh. The effluent from Hauser Marsh is pumped
back to the disinfection facility.
Disinfection: Chlorine gas is used to disinfect Arcata's waste water before it is discharged to the
enhancement marshes and again before it is discharged into Humboldt Bay. Because of this “double™
chlorination” two chlorine contact basins are necessary. These basins are built as one unit, which is
located immediately south of the headworks. Any free chlorine remaining in the final effluent after the
60 minute contact time is removed with sulfur dioxide.
Arcata Marsh and Sanctuary: Points of Interest
1 Robert Gearheart Marsh: Completed in 1981, this marsh was built from pastureland and now uses
treated wastewater as the sole water source.
2 George Allen Marsh: Also completed in 1981, this marsh was built on an abandoned log deck and is
enhanced with wastewater.
3 Dan Hauser Marsh: The final marsh to be irrigated with treated wastewater before returning to the
treatment plant for disinfection and release into to the bay. This marsh was a barrow pit for the closure of
the adjacent landfill.
4 Mount Trashmore: This grassy hill has been reclaimed from a sealed sanitary landfill that operated
during the 1960's and 70's.
7 Arcata Boat Ramp: The only concrete boat ramp maintained in Arcata Bay, this serves as an access
point for sport boating, duck hunting, and sport shellfish harvesting.
11 Butcher’s Slough: Butcher’s Slough is a restored estuary receiving feed from Jolly Giant Creek, the
principal watershed in Arcata. A California Coastal Conservancy Project returned the estuary to its
original alignment and ecological value. This slough serves as home to the Coastal Cutthroat Trout.
12 Butcher's Slough Marsh: An old log pond restored to provide swamp-like habitat in the Arcata Marsh
and Wildlife Sanctuary.
16 AMWS Interpretive Center: This is the site where the AMWS Interpretive Center is built. This center
will attempt to meet the educational demands of the treatment system.
5 Frank Klopp Lake: This brackish lake was also a barrow pit for the closure of the landfill and is now a
popular loafing area for shorebirds, a feeding area for diving birds and river otters, and a place for
artificial-bait-only sport fishing.
6 Treatment Marshes: Three 2.5 acre constructed wetlands which process oxidation pond effluent to
secondary standards prior to release to the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary.
8 Wastewater Aquaculture Project: Fish hatchery and ponds where salmon, trout and other fish are raised
in a mixture of wastewater and seawater.
9 Marsh Pilot Project: These ten 20’ X 200’ marsh cells have been used since 1980 to demonstrate the
effectiveness of constructed wetlands to achieve water quality and habitat goals.
10 Oxidation Ponds: These 45 acres of ponds, built in the late 1950’s, treat Arcata’s wastewater to
secondary standards.
13 Arcata Bay: This bay produces more than half of the oysters grown in California and is home to a
variety of other aquatic animals.
14 Headworks Facility: This is the place where the influent to the treatment system is received.
15 Discharge Point: This is the point where a mixture of treatment of marsh effluent and enhancement
marsh effluent is discharged into the Arcata Bay side of Humboldt Bay.
Design Population............................................19,056
Average Annual Flow.....................................2.3 mgd
Maximum Monthly Flow.................................5.9 mgd
Peak Flow....................................................16.5 mgd
BOD's Load............................................4100 lbs/day
TSS Load................................................3400 lbs/day
Mechanically Cleaned
..... Bar Screens..................................2 at 5 mgd each
Gravity Grit Removal......................................144 ft.2
Primary Treatment
2 Primary clarifiers ....................26 ft. diam./60 ft. diam
Retention time at design flow.............................3.8 hrs.
Retention time at max. monthly flow...................1.4 hrs.
Treatment Marshes
Total area......................................................7.5 acres
Ave. Depth............................................................2 ft.
Total detention time at design flow...................1.9 days
Volume................................................185,400 gallons
Retention time at design flow.............................58 min.
Retention time at max. monthly flow...................30 min.
3 Enhancement Marshes
Total area.........................................................31 acres
Ave. depth...........................................................1.5 ft.
Retention time at ave. flow...................................9 days
Acknowledgments - Elected Officials
Lynne Canning
Elizabeth Lee
Bob Ornelas
Sam Pennisi
Victor Schaub Mayor
City Staff
Frank Klopp Director of Public Works
Steve Tyler Deputy Director of Public Works
David Hull Aquatic Resources Specialist
Supporting Organizations
California Coastal Conservancy
California State Water Resources Control Board
California Coastal Commision
California Department of Fish and Game
Humboldt State University
Redwood Regional Audubon Society
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Cover Painting--Jim McVicker
Note: This information is provided for reference purposes only.
Although the information provided here was accurate and current
when first created, it is now outdated.
Disclaimer: The information in this website is entirely drawn from a 1993 publication, and has not
been updated since the original publication date. Users are cautioned that information reported at that
time may have become outdated.
Martinez, CA - The Mt. View Project: A Community
Success Story
The Mt. View Project: A Community Success
The Marsh Began to Grow
Where Does the Water Come From?
Keeping the Wetland Wet
The Mt. View Project: A Community Success Story
Mt. View Sanitary District (MVSD) provides wastewater treatment for approximately 16,000 people
living in and around Martinez, California. This community, led by an independent-minded Board of
Directors and a forward-thinking engineer, created the first wastewater wetlands on the West Coast. The
project saved the rate payers millions of dollars and established a valuable wildlife habitat in the process.
This is the story of how Mt. View Sanitary District created a wastewater wetland for the enrichment of
both the community and wildlife.
Sewage treatment plants, by their very nature, are often
located at the fringe of development. The year Mt. View
Sanitary District was established —1923, it was located
outside the City of Martinez, in rural Contra Costa County,
Mt. View was created as a special district to treat the
wastewater from the rural portions of the county
surrounding Martinez and was to be governed by a board of
five publicly elected directors.
Mt. View Sanitary District Wetlands are
located adjacent to large industrial facilities.
The board was an independent group and did not easily accept the Regional Water Quality Control
Board's (RWQCB) idea in the late '60s of consolidating all of the small treatment facilities into a large
regional plant. The result would have required pumping MVSD’s wastewater to a neighboring facility to
be treated, effectively dissolving their district. Not only would it have usurped their control, but it also
was going to cost over $6 million. The District decided to search for an alternative.
MVSD tried to sell its water to neighboring industrial
plants and to the highway department for irrigation. The
District considered constructing its own deep-water
diffuser in nearby Carquinez Straits, at a cost of $2.38
million. Warren Nute, the District’s engineer at the time,
observed that the regulations the RWQCB were using
stated that if the treated effluent was creating an
environmental benefit, then the District would not have
to remove its effluent discharge from Peyton Slough, a
small creek, influenced by tidal action along part of its
length, that delivers the District's effluent to Carquinez
Straits and San Francisco Bay. The District then set about
creating the first wetland on the West Coast using secondary treated effluent, to provide environmental
The Marsh Began to Grow
Bird usage from 1989-1991 in Mt. View Sanitary District Wetlands
In 1974 the District began with a simple 10-acre wetland divided into two sections. The area that was created by
scraping away the topsoil became a shallow, open-water pond. The other area, whose topsoil was not disturbed,
was quickly colonized by emergent vegetation, such as cattails.
In 1977 the marsh was expanded to include 10 more acres of land divided into three marsh areas. One was
constructed as an open-water pond with islands to provide protected nesting habitat for waterfowl.
A second marsh was seeded with plants to provide food for waterfowl, such as water grass and alkali bulrush
(Echinochloa crusgalli and Scirpus robustus). The third area was designed in a serpentine fashion to provide
maximum water/plant contact to enhance treatment effectiveness.
The Mt. View Sanitary District marshes are located in an urban environment and the marsh is bisected by an
interstate highway. The next 22 acres, added to the marsh system in 1984, were located across the interstate to
the north. This area had been seasonally flooded and the District merely had to make minor changes to water
control structures to allow the marsh's inclusion in the system. The most recent addition to the wastewater
wetland complex is a 43-acre section that also is located to the north of the interstate and adjacent to the
previous 22 acres.
The wetlands area totals 85 acres. This bountiful
wildlife habitat includes plants, animals, fish and
invertebrates. Some of the animals are permanent
residents of the marshes, while others are temporary
visitors that stop along their migratory journey.
Plants grow in the marshes as well as on the levees
surrounding the marshes and a riparian corridor is
beginning along Peyton Slough. There are emergent
plants rooted in the bottom muds as well as
submerged plants.
A variety of habitat types and controlled public access promote
wildlife use of the wastewater wetland.
Wetland plants provide food and shelter for marsh
biota and improve water quality. Birds, mammals,
reptiles and amphibians eat plant leaves, seeds and
roots of the more than 70 species of marsh and riparian vegetation. Dense growths of marsh bulrushes provide
nesting sites for songbirds as well as ducks.
The most visible animals at the marshes are the more than 123 species of birds. The diversity of aquatic habitats
attracts mallard and cinnamon teal to rest and feed in the open-water areas; avocets and black-necked stilts to
probe for invertebrates in the mudflats; and red-winged blackbirds to nest among the cattail stands. There are
resident birds in the wetland, such as song sparrows and American coot, in addition to migrant birds, as
exemplified by sandpipers and pintail.
There are more than 15 species of birds that nest in the wetland. The area provides valuable nesting sites for
waterfowl, shorebirds and songbirds. The wetland is also important because fresh drinking water is a
requirement for ducklings. Later, as the ducklings mature, they develop salt glands that allow them to drink
saline water. However, until that time, they must be reared in a freshwater environment. In an area such as San
Francisco Bay, which has lost nearly all of its freshwater wetlands, appropriate nesting habitat is a valuable
resource provided at the Mt. View wastewater wetland.
Fish also inhabit Peyton Slough and the marshes. Small fish eat midge and mosquito larvae to help keep the
marsh free of these nuisance insects, and in turn they are preyed upon by herons and egrets. The discarded
carapace of a crayfish is evidence of the raccoon's evening meal. Other marsh wildlife includes everything from
pond turtles to striped skunks and an occasional river otter. A total of 34 species of fish, mammals, reptiles and
amphibians have been observed at the wetland.
Schematic of the Mt. View Sanitary District marsh creation project.
Where Does the Water Come From?
Mt. View Sanitary District provides secondary treatment to
approximately 1.3 million gallons per day of wastewater
from approximately 16,000 residents in the Martinez, Calif.,
area. Although there is some light industry and commercial
development within the District's service area, the primary
source of the wastewater is residential. The District
maintains strict pretreatment standards and prohibits the
discharge of heavy industrial waste into its sewerage system.
The treatment train includes comminution, primary
sedimentation, biological treatment by a two-stage, high-rate
trickling filter, a biotower for ammonia removal, secondary
sedimentation, effluent chlorination, dechlorination with
sulphur dioxide, and sludge processing. A flow equalization
basin assists in equalizing storm flows to the treatment plant to maximize efficiency.
Monitoring is conducted on the treatment plant influent, effluent, marsh discharges and the receiving
water. Although the primary purpose for constructing the wetland is to create wildlife habitat, it also
improves water quality for some parameters. There are numerous processes by which plants contribute to
water quality improvements, including direct uptake of nutrients by algae and some rooted vegetation.
The plants foster settling of particulate matter by slowing water movement and greatly increase the
contact with microorganisms that live on the surfaces of emergent plants. These microorganisms
metabolize pollutants, decreasing their dissolved concentrations in the water. Monitoring shows that
wetland nutrient concentrations follow a stable seasonal cycle that varies little from month to month, but
clearly shows a difference between the cold, wet season (November through April) and the warm, dry
season (May through October).
The concentration of nitrates decreases in the wetland during the summer months. There is limited
evidence to suggest that the wetland is removing cadmium, copper, silver and zinc. In addition, periodic
special monitoring studies are undertaken to answer specific questions concerning the processes or biota
within the wetlands. Studies at the marsh have included an ammonia study and a fisheries and benthic
invertebrate study.
Doubtless the largest special study, however, occurred after the 1988 spill of 440,000 gallons of crude oil
into the marsh from an adjacent refinery. The cleanup efforts included picking up oily water by vacuum
trucks, rototilling of contaminated soils and hand-cutting vegetation in less inundated areas of the marsh.
The recovery of the marsh's vegetation and soils was monitored closely and eight months later this
section of the wetland resumed operation.
Mt. View Sanitary District treatment plant.
Keeping the Wetland Wet
In 1974 MVSD created its wetland and, as with other man-made environments, routine operations and
maintenance are required. Tasks required on a weekly or monthly basis include removing debris that
collects behind weirs, examining levees for erosion and inspecting for animal burrows that could lead to
levee failure.
The frequency of vegetation harvesting in the shallow marsh areas has proven to be related to its surface.
Smaller marsh plots need to be harvested more frequently than larger areas. Marsh A-1 is approximately
one acre and has had vegetation removed a number of times during the past 18 years. Similarly, a threeacre marsh plot that had internal levees subdividing it into smaller waterways also was in need of
harvesting and levee rearranging after 10 years. Whereas the larger Marsh A-2, approximately four acres,
is only now ready to be harvested after 18 years of operation.
Early maintenance activities included stocking the marshes with mosquito
fish as predators for mosquito larvae. The mosquito fish population became
self-sustaining after the first few years. There were so many of the small
fishes that for a period of time, the MVSD marshes supplied fish to a local
natural history museum to feed their live exhibits. The original 10-acre
marsh construction project cost only a few thousand dollars, and the first
10-acre expansion cost $85,000. The District already owned the land for
these segments of the marsh creation project. The first 22 acres to the north
of the interstate were acquired by the California State Department of Fish
and Game and is managed by MVSD. The 43 acres acquired in 1985 were
purchased for $204,887. It is likely that more acreage will be added to the wetland in the future as a
result of the settlements from the oil spill. The annual operation and maintenance budget includes labor
for marsh monitoring, special research studies, vegetation harvesting and levee repair. These costs
average $30,000-$50,000 annually.
The total cost of the marsh over the past 18 years is less than one-third the cost ratepayers would have
had to contribute to the neighboring treatment plant's deep-water diffuser.*
Not only has the experiment been cost effective, but the marsh itself boasts a long list of contributions to
the community. Visitors spend hundreds of hours enjoying the marsh and its wildlife. Bird watching and
nature photography are favorite pastimes of local, regional and international visitors. Students from
elementary through college come to observe and do research projects at the wetland.
The wetland provides open space in a rapidly developing county. The freshwater habitat is a link on the
Pacific Flyway used by migratory birds. The effluent is viewed as a resource creating wildlife habitat and
maintaining a small, freshwater surface inflow to San Francisco Bay, which has lost most of its
freshwater tributaries.
The creation of Mt. View Sanitary District's wetland
system is a community success story. The independent
District was willing to question regional policy makers
and in so doing pioneered the creation of wetland habitat
using secondary treated effluent, saving local citizens
millions of dollars.«
* This brochure is dedicated to the memory of J. Warren
Nute, who pioneered the development of wastewater
wetlands on the West Coast.
The wetland serves as an outdoor laboratory for
learning. Students from local elementary schools
as well as college students are interested in the
« This brochure was created with funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Requisition
No. A22190
Robert Bastian--.....U.S. EPA, Project Officer
Francesca Demgen, Woodward-Clyde Consultants--.....Project Manager
Dick Bogaert and Francesca Demgen--.....Photography
Note: This information is provided for reference purposes only.
Although the information provided here was accurate and current
when first created, it is now outdated.
Disclaimer: The information in this website is entirely drawn from a 1993 publication, and has not
been updated since the original publication date. Users are cautioned that information reported at that
time may have become outdated.
Marin Co., CA - Wetlands as a Part of Reuse and
Disposal: Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District
Treatment and Reclamation
Water Quality
Costs and Benefits
Project Information
Where can you find herons roosting in trees and 31/2
miles of public access trails on the edge of San Pablo
Bay? The answer is at Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary
District's Wastewater Reclamation Project in Marin
County, California. The District has created a multifaceted reclamation project that includes a freshwater
marsh, irrigated pasture, storage ponds, a saltwater
marsh and miles of trails for hiking, biking and bird
The District has created a multi-faceted reclamation
project that includes a fresh-water marsh, irrigated
pasture, storage ponds, a saltwater marsh and miles
of trails for hiking, biking and bird watching.
A regional planning effort for eastern Marin and
southern Sonoma counties began in the early 1970's.
The goal of the planning was to improve effluent water quality to meet the increased requirements of the
Clean Water Act. The best apparent alternative identified in 1977 was to discharge treated effluent to the
shallow waters of the Bay, but only on high tides, and to begin reclamation for landscape irrigation.
The agencies determined that this did not afford the
shallow waters of San Pablo Bay, the northern most
portion of San Francisco Bay, enough protection. They
decided to require an elimination of any discharge of
treated wastewater effluent to the shallow fringes of the
Bay and its tributary creeks during the summer months.
The planners were frustrated by the moving target, but
they went back to the drawing boards and developed a
plan for treatment and disposal that would meet all of the
requirements. In order to meet a requirement of no
summer discharge the plan needed to include storage
capacity and alternative disposal options. So they developed a project that included many forms of reuse
and disposal.
Las Gallinas' wastewater reclamation project is a 385 acre complex including 200 acres of irrigated
pasture, 40 acres of storage ponds, a 20 acre freshwater wetland, a 10 acre salt marsh, and landscape
irrigation. The District has an agreement with the local water agency for reclamation of up to 350 million
gallons of treated effluent per year for landscape irrigation.
Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District was formed in 1954 by residents who were faced with serious
health problems from failing septic tanks and pollution in Gallinas Creek. The District now serves a
community of approximately 30,000 people in northern Marin County. The District's influent is
predominantly residential including discharges from some commercial and light industry sources. The
treatment facility has a design capacity of 2.9 million gallons per day.
The planners were frustrated by the moving target, but they went back to the drawing boards and developed a plan for
treatment and disposal.
Treatment and Reclamation
The treatment plant was expanded and upgraded in 1984,
when the reclamation project was constructed. The
project received state and federal Clean Water Grant
funds for 87.5% of the costs. The treatment consists of
grit removal, clarification, two stage biofiltration,
ammonia removal, filtration, chlorination, and
dechlorination. The treated effluent goes to a
combination of the marsh, the creek, or the storage
ponds, depending on the time of year. For nine months
out of the year the effluent from the marsh is discharged
to Miller Creek and San Pablo Bay. During June, July,
and August, the discharge is stored in 40 acres of ponds
and used to irrigate the pasture and for the water
agency's recycling program.
Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District
Design Criteria
Design Year................................2001
Average Dry Weather Flow.........2.69 mgd
Peak Dry Weather Flow..............4.3 mgd
BOD Loading..............................5434 lbs/day
TSS Loading................................5738 lbs/day
Irrigated Pasture...........................200 acres
The 200 acres of pasture is subdivided into sections so
Marsh/Pond.................................20 acres
that it may be irrigated on a rotating schedule. The
irrigation must be done in June, July, and August to
Storage Ponds..............................40 acres
dispose of the effluent, however depending on the
Irrigated Landscaping...................20 acres
weather and the needs of the pasture, it is usually
irrigated through November. The irrigation schedule rotates among the fields with a goal of the disposal
of a target number of gallons per month.
Marin County is located on a narrow peninsula north of San Francisco. The County’s drinking water
reservoirs have relatively small watersheds and under extreme draught conditions have been nearly
emptied. In seeking to develop new sources of water, the water district approached Las Gallinas to
discuss the potential for reclamation. The agreement that was developed allows the water district to
purchase up to 350 million gallons of Las Gallinas’ effluent per year. The effluent receives further
treatment and is then sold for landscape irrigation, helping the limited potable water supply to stretch
The 20 acre freshwater marsh/pond was designed to incorporate a number of different wildlife habitat
types into a single unit. This is accomplished by varying the depths of the water and the types of
vegetation that colonize each area. The central area is the deepest, more than six feet under normal
operation. The deep central area is ringed by a two foot deep zone that was designed to become inhabited
by emergent vegetation such as tall thin bulrushes. There is an overflow zone that is only inundated
during winter rains and when the marsh/pond is needed occasionally to store additional effluent near the
end of the summer. The five islands are the final physical component of the marsh.
The most important part of the marsh/pond is not its physical configuration but its biological inhabitants.
The wide variety of plants and animals make the area interesting to the many visitors that walk, jog, or
bike around the perimeter. There are many regular bird watchers that keep track of the resident and
migratory populations that use the reclamation project. Members of the Marin Audubon Society have
observed over 147 species of birds in the reclamation project areas.
There are over 40 species of plants in the marsh/pond
ranging from submerged pond weeds to emergent cattails.
There are willow trees and acacias on the islands, grasses,
and shrubs on the banks. The grasses on the islands produce
seeds that are eaten by small rodents and serve as cover for
waterfowl nesting. Mallards, coots, and Canada geese nest
and raise their young at the marsh/pond. A portion of one of
the islands is barren and has a gentle slope up from the
water. This area is a favorite resting place for the cormorant.
The island's trees provide roosting habitat for a wide variety
of birds including snowy and great egrets, black-crowned
night heron and the great blue heron. Occasionally there is
even competition for roosting space among the tree
branches. A long-eared owl rested not so peacefully in a willow tree one February afternoon when a redshouldered hawk perched barely 3 feet above its head in the same tree and screeched incessantly, trying
unsuccessfully to get the owl to move.
The wading herons and egrets and the diving pelicans and cormorant are probably attracted to the
wetland not only for resting but to feed on the plentiful small fish in the pond. The flock of dozens of
large white pelicans that frequent the marsh are a favorite of visitors. There are small mosquito fish as
well as carp that grow to fourteen inches in length. Many other animals use the marsh/pond including
noisy bullfrogs, snakes that shed their old skins intertwined among the tall grasses, raccoon, jack rabbits,
deer and muskrat. The muskrats aren't always welcomed by the wetland manager because they tend to
dig tunnels in the levees.
The salt marsh restoration project was completed to diversify the types of wildlife habitat. The salt marsh
is fed by water from the Bay and does not receive any treated effluent.
Water Quality
The Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District produces a high quality, advanced secondary effluent. The
average flow in 1992 was 2.7 million gallons per day, during the months when the effluent is discharged
to Miller Creek and the Bay. The purpose of the treatment plant and reclamation project is to keep as
much of the pollutant load from entering the environment as possible. In 1992 the plant removed 95% of
the organic material that would enter the creek and bay. These biochemical oxygen demanding
substances would use oxygen to complete decomposition. It is this oxygen that is needed by fish and
other aquatic organisms for their survival. The concentration of ammonia in the effluent is reduced
substantially, to a level that is not harmful to fish in the marsh/pond or the creek.
Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District
Effluent Water Quality, 1992 Averages
Monitoring Average
Frequency Concentration
Biochemical Oxygen Demand 3x/wk
Total Suspended Solids
Oil and Grease
1 mo
Settleable Solids
6.6 units
Ammonia Nitrogen
Costs and Benefits
The reclamation project was constructed in 1984 for a cost of
$6.5 million dollars, including the land acquisition.
Approximately 87.5% of the project funding was from state and
federal Clean Water Grant funds administered by the
Environmental Protection Agency. The project was recognized
for Engineering Excellence in a competition sponsored by the
Consulting Engineers Association of California and indeed the
residents of the District are proud of the treatment system and
enjoy the benefits of the reclamation project. Each and every
day people can be seen walking dogs, gazing through
binoculars at their favorite birds, and jogging around the
Developed by Woodward-Clyde Consultants
Project Manager---Francesca Demgen
EPA Project Manager---Robert Bastian
Graphic Design---Chris Dunn
This brochure was created with funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Requisition
No. A22190.
Note: This information is provided for reference purposes only.
Although the information provided here was accurate and current
when first created, it is now outdated.
Disclaimer: The information in this website is entirely drawn from a 1993 publication, and has not
been updated since the original publication date. Users are cautioned that information reported at that
time may have become outdated.
Hayward Marsh, CA - Wetlands from Wastewater:
The Hayward Marsh Expansion Project
The Hayward Marsh Expansion Project:
Wetlands from Wastewater: The History of the
Project, Marsh and Shoreline
The Two Phases
Wastewater: Resource Versus Liability
Flora and Fauna
Gathering the Data
The Promise of Wastewater Wetlands
Project Information
The Hayward Marsh Expansion Project: Wetlands
From Wastewater
Can treated sewage effluent be used to enhance and create wetlands? This brochure documents the
innovative and effective use of secondary wastewater on wetlands in a northern California coastal
community. The community, Hayward, is on the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay. The project,
Hayward Shoreline Marsh Expansion Project, is a part of a larger marsh restoration and enhancement
The Hayward Shoreline Marsh Expansion Project
addresses two growing urban issues: the restoration
and enhancement of declining wetlands areas in the
United States, and the additional treatment and
beneficial uses that can be achieved from the
utilization of wastewater. The shoreline and marsh
in this case are roughly 172 acres of a 400-acre
restoration and enhancement area. The source of the
wastewater is primarily residential and light
The History of the
Project, Marsh and
Biodegradable mesh was laid on banks near inlet and
outlet structures during construction.
In 1971 the Hayward Area Shoreline Planning Agency was formed by five groups to restore about 1,800
acres of Hayward shoreline. The five included: the City of Hayward, Hayward Area Recreation District,
East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD), and the Hayward and San Lorenzo Unified School Districts.
The 1,800-acre area had been a part of the Bay area salt-and-brackish-marsh system until the later part of
the 19th century. At that time the marsh was eliminated by creation of a dike to hold out tidal action to
allow for commercial salt production. Salt production ceased in the 1940s, but the area was not returned
to marshland until more than 40 years later.
The Two Phases
The restoration and enhancement of the diverse 400-acre marsh—part of the 1,800
acres of Hayward shoreline-was planned in two phases. The first phase was
completed in 1980 when extensive grading and breaching of the dikes allowed
tidal action to be restored to approximately 200 acres. This created the conditions
necessary for natural restoration of a tidal cord grass and pickleweed salt marsh.
The second phase, the Hayward Shoreline Marsh Expansion Project, involved
restoring 172 acres to fresh and brackish marshes. Using existing and newly
created channels and dikes, a five-basin marsh system was formed. This second
phase of newly created fresh and brackish marshes began operation in April 1988
and relies on secondary treated wastewater as its freshwater source.
A 27-acre corner of Hayward
Marsh has been set aside as a
preserve for the salt marsh
harvest mouse.
Funding for the 172-acre marsh expansion totaled $713,570 and has come from
four sources: the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for designs and specifications;
City of Hayward for design, contract documents and permits; the EBRPD's appropriation from the 1980
California Parklands Act for marsh enhancement and recreational facilities; and a grant from the State Coastal
Conservancy for the major portion of construction.
EBRPD and the East Bay Dischargers Authority (EBDA) are the joint holders of the National Pollution Discharge
Elimination System (NPDES) permit for the marsh. Flow to the marsh, primarily from Union Sanitary District, is
diverted from EBDA’s forcemain, which runs along the eastern edge of the Bay and discharges effluent from six
municipal wastewater treatment plants to the deep waters of San Francisco Bay. The anticipated success of the
Hayward Marsh may provide EBDA and its member agencies with the opportunity to develop other constructed
wetlands along the Bay.
EBRPD has acquired control of the site,
including the 400 acres designated for
marsh restoration, by purchase of 495
acres and by long-term lease with other
agencies. EBRPD is responsible for the
operation and maintenance of the marsh.
When completed, the Hayward Marsh will
be the largest restoration and enhancement
project on the West Coast to date.
The 172-acre area is actually divided into
six sections: the five basins mentioned
earlier and a preserve set aside for the salt
marsh harvest mouse, an endangered
species. The five basins include three
freshwater basins and two brackish water
Basin 1 receives the treated, chlorinated
Vegetation begins to colonize Basin 2A, a
newly created freshwater marsh.
secondary effluent. The water that enters
the marsh meets standards for both
biochemical oxygen demand and
suspended solids, as well as for coliform
bacteria. Residual chlorine is allowed to
dissipate in this basin. Basin 1 is about 15
acres and is operated at a depth of
between 5 and 8 feet. From Basin 1 the
water is discharged to a channel leading to
Basins 2A and 2B.
Schematic of the Hayward Shorline Marsh Expansion Project.
Basins 2A and 2B are identical 35-acre freshwater marshes with internal channels and islands. The marshes were
designed to have a range of depths: there are shallow areas of two feet or less and the perimeter and internal
channels are six feet deep. Basins 3A and 3B are brackish and receive a combination of approximately 25 percent
bay water and 75 percent effluent from Basins 2A and 2B. These two basins are each 30 acres and also have
internal channels and islands.
The 27-acre mouse preserve, on the southeastern corner of Hayward Marsh, is an area of pickleweed marsh set
aside specifically as habitat for the salt marsh harvest mouse. This area receives storm water runoff, but not
treated effluent.
Wastewater: Resource Versus Liability
Wastewater has been treated and reused successfully as a water and
nutrient resource in agriculture, silviculture, aquaculture and golf course
and green belt irrigation. By regarding wastewater as a resource rather
than a liability, it is now being viewed as water pollution control with
positive benefits.
The Hayward Shoreline Marsh Expansion Project has three main
objectives: creation of a diversified marsh system using secondary
effluent; maximization of public benefits including wildlife habitat,
preservation of open space, and creation of educational, research and
aesthetic opportunities; and meeting NPDES requirements.
The increased interest in wastewater wetlands treatment
systems can be attributed to three factors: recognition of the
natural treatment functions of aquatic plant systems and
wetlands, particularly as nutrient processors and buffering
zones; emerging or renewed application of aesthetic, wildlife
and other incidental environmental benefits associated with
the preservation and enhancement of wetlands; and rapidly
escalating costs of construction and operation associated
The marsh system removes pollutants from the with conventional treatment facilities. Constructed wetlands
have become attractive as a treatment and disposal
treated wastewater it receives, so its final
discharge to the bay is water of higher quality. alternative for secondary wastewater for several reasons:
they physically entrap pollutants through adsorption in the
surface soils, in organic litter and on suspended particulates; through their utilization and transformation
of pollutants by microorganisms; and because of their low-energy and low-maintenance requirements to
attain consistent treatment levels.
Flora and Fauna
The first plants to emerge at
Hayward Marsh were grasses, fat
hen and pickleweed which had
colonized the levees prior to project
construction. Recolonization by
plants has been slowed somewhat
because of residual soil salinities
from earlier commercial salt
production and because topsoil was
disturbed during construction.
Planting efforts have met with
varying degrees of success. Seeds of
alkali bulrush (Scirpus robustus) and
watergrass (Echinochloa crusgalli)
were eaten by ducks. Shoots of other
bulrush species were eaten by
waterfowl and geese or were
dislodged by high winds.
Subsequent planting efforts have
been more successful due to
protective cages that exclude
predators and help block the wind.
Once the plants become well
established the cages will be
The fauna that use the marsh include waterfowl, shorebirds, small
mammals, amphibians, reptiles and fish. As many as 94 species of
birds have been recorded using the site for feeding, nesting, hunting,
foraging or as a refuge during high tide. Hayward Marsh is
strategically located on the bird migration route known as the Pacific
flyway. On any given day during the winter migratory season,
There are 3 main species of terns
that forage at the marsh including
the Forster's tern (pictured above).
The endangered Least tern stopped
thousands of ducks can be seen resting on the freshwater marshes.
at Hayward Marsh on its migratory
journey and nested successfully in
1990. Efforts to provide suitable
nesting habitat for the tern include
covering one of the islands with
crushed oyster shells.
Birds using Hayward Marsh have been categorized as follows:
dabbling ducks, shorebirds, diving ducks, fish-eating birds, gulls and
landbirds. Dabbling ducks include mallard, northern pintail, gadwall,
cinnamon teal and the northern shoveler. Dabblers feed on or near the
surface of the marsh and eat seeds and shoots of aquatic plants, aquatic invertebrates, minnows, snails,
grain, grass and insects.
Shorebirds also migrate through San Francisco Bay and use the brackish water sections of Hayward
Marsh during the spring and fall. Common visitors to the marsh include the American avocet, blacknecked stilt, Caspian tern, Forster's tern, sandpiper, willet and killdeer.
Diving ducks have included the scaup, canvasback, bufflehead
and ruddy duck. Diving ducks feed either within the water
column or by diving to the bottom for mollusks, crustaceans,
aquatic insects and invertebrates, crayfish and, to a lesser
degree, aquatic plants.
Fish-eating birds have included heron, egret, grebe, tern and
pelican. Fisheaters either wade or dive for food. Their diet, in
addition to fish, may include crustaceans, aquatic insects,
frogs, small vertebrates and crayfish. It was not at all a
coincidence that a large flock of opportunistic pelicans visited
immediately after hundreds of pounds of Sacramento blackfish
were introduced to the marshes.
Geese, ducks, and shorebirds produce
hundreds of offspring at the marsh each
Land birds at the marsh have included raptors, such as an
endangered peregrine falcon that preys upon ruddy ducks and
sandpipers. The marsh is within the peregrine‘s established territory. Seed-eating songbirds and insect
eaters such as swallows are regular inhabitants of the marsh area.
Gathering the Data
The EBRPD, EBDA and the Union Sanitary District
(USD) are the team responsible for providing the
treated effluent to the marsh, monitoring the water
quality within the system and managing the wetland.
Range mg/l The team's tasks include everything from analyzing
for residual chlorine to sampling fish and aquatic
invertebrate populations.
Biochemical Oxygen Demand...........5.2-22.0
Marsh Influent Water Quality 1990
Suspended Solids...........................10.3-22.0
Oil and Greese.......................................3-10
Residual Chlorine...............................6.0-9.3
pH (Units)..........................................7.0-7.4
Mercury (1)...................................<.000025
One of the most beneficial aspects of the Hayward
Marsh Project is that the team is encouraging and
supporting research studies of the effect of effluent
heavy metals on the marsh and its inhabitants. EBDA
and USD have contracted with the University of
California-Berkeley, Hayward State University and
Woodward-Clyde Consultants to conduct a threeyear research project to study heavy metals in the
Research questions and answers are complicated by
the complexities inherent in a marsh. There are many
chemical reactions, biological interactions and
physical processes that take place every day in this
172-acre marsh. The research project first has to
identify all of the major biological organisms that
live in the marsh. This means counting birds and
their nests, digging up worms and other invertebrates
that live in bottom muds, and identifying the plants
that grow in, on, and right up through the water.
Wetland Design Criteria
(1) None of the 11 samples contained concentrations
above the detection limit.
The second step is to determine the concentration of
metals in the water, the sediment, and the plants and
animals living in the marsh. There are 10 metals for
which the marsh is being tested: arsenic, cadmium,
chromium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, selenium,
silver and zinc.
There are three methods being used to study the marsh.
First, the wetland itself is being sampled. Second, a
Average Daily Flow (1)..............9.68 mgd
Maximum Daily Flow (2)..........25.92 mgd
Minimum Daily Flow (3)........................0
Bay Inflow (4)..............................2.5 mgd
Total Wetland Area...................172 acres
mesocosm or small-scale marsh located adjacent to
Hayward Marsh is being used to create and test future
conditions that will occur in the marsh. And third,
laboratory experiments mimicking sediments, water
and phytoplankton are being used to isolate and
analyze specific metal-uptake processes that occur in
the field. This extensive research program is partially
funded by an $80,000 grant from the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency with the remainder
of the total research costs of $539,000 supported by
EBDA and USD. The park district supports the
research efforts with in-kind services.
Detention Time.............................14 days
Trace amounts of heavy metals are a normal
occurrence in our environment. The key questions
research will answer include: 1) Are the metals being
concentrated in the wetland? and 2) Are the metals
having an adverse effect on the marsh's biota? To
predict potential effects to the wildlife, the
concentrations of metals in the organisms will be
measured and then compared with published values for
metals that have been found harmful to wildlife.
(1) This is Union Sanitary District treated effluent.
Basin 1.......................................15 acres
Marsh 2A....................................35 acres
Marsh 2B....................................35 acres
Marsh 3A....................................30 acres
Marsh 3B.....................................30 acres
Mouse Preserve...........................27 acres
(2) Maximum flows may be used as a management
tool, such as to flush waterfowl disease bacteria
out of hte system.
(3) The ability to shut off the flow facilitates
(4) Bay water mixes with the treated effluent in
Marshes 3A and 3B.
Water Quality Analyses
Basin 1
Basins 2A,
Basins 1, 2A 2B
2B, 3A, 3B & Receiving Water
Basin Effluents
1, 2A, 2B, 3A,
3B &
Receiving Water
12 Stations in
Dissolved Oxygen
MPN Coliform
Ten Metals
Total Ammonia
Un-ionized Ammonia .
Chlorophyll a
Suspended Solids
Avian Census
Fish Bioassay
* (1)
Ten Metals Analysis: Analysis for 10 metals is being performed twice on multiple samples of sediments,
fish, emergent and floating vegetation, phytoplankton, addled eggs, acquatic invertebrates and benthic
invertebrates in both Hayward Marsh and the mesocosm.
(1) Effluent only
The Promise of Wastewater Wetlands
Growing numbers of communities around the
country have created wetland projects to create
wildlife habitat and to further treat secondary
effluent as a low-cost, energy-efficient disposal
alternative. This method is especially suitable for
smaller communities with available land.
A wastewater wetland created as a treatment
facility will be designed differently than one built
primarily to enhance wildlife habitat. The
differences may be in design depths, basin
configurations, flow rates and vegetation types.
But a wetland built as a treatment facility may also
yield other benefits. It may be useful for some
wildlife and may provide recreational trails.
Likewise, a wastewater wetland created for
wildlife habitat may also improve the quality of
water that flows through it to the sea.
The Hayward Marsh Expansion Project is a case-in-point of innovative engineering and science applied
to the conversion of secondary wastewater effluent into a resource; a project that holds great promise for
a growing environmental problem.
This brochure was created with funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Requisition
No. A22190.
Robert Bastian, U.S. EPA
............Project Officer
Francesca Demgen, Woodward-Clyde Consultants
............Project Manager
Mark Taylor, EBRPD
Note: This information is provided for reference purposes only.
Although the information provided here was accurate and current
when first created, it is now outdated.
Disclaimer: The information in this website is entirely drawn from a 1993 publication, and has not
been updated since the original publication date. Users are cautioned that information reported at that
time may have become outdated.
Orlando, FL - Wetland Treatment Systems: A Case
History - The Orlando Easterly Wetlands
Reclamation Project
Project Background
Siting Considerations
Permitting Considerations
Wildlife Considerations
Developing the Wetlands
Wetland Components
Measuring Success
Community Acceptance
Project Information
A Case History: Orlando Easterly Wetlands
Reclamation Project
Wetlands have been the victim of progress in America. Research
indicates that less than half of the 215 million acres of wetlands
originally present in the United States prior to settlement
remained by the mid 1970s. Much of this loss is due to the
conversion of wetland areas into farmland.
Today, wetlands are recognized as a valuable natural resource.
They help maintain the quality of our environment; provide
habitat for a variety of plants and animals, including rare and
endangered species; and offer a number of socio-economic
benefits, ranging from flood protection to recreation
In operation since 1987, the Orlando
Easterly Wetlands Reclamation Project
has demonstrated its successs as a
treatment facilility, reuse project, and
wildlife habitat.
Project Location.
The critical role which wetlands can play in reclaiming valuable
freshwater resources is also recognized. Unlike the technology
of the late 1960s and 1970s, which focused on the disposal of
wastewater effluents as quickly and efficiently as possible
(usually through discharge into streams, lakes, or oceans),
wetlands treatment technology involves passing wastewater
effluent or stormwater runoff through a wetland system. By
acting as a natural filter for the pollutants that remain even in
advanced treated wastewater effluent, wetland systems can
polish the effluent so that it can be safely returned to fresh water
One of the largest constructed wetland treatment systems built to
date is the Orlando Easterly Wetlands Reclamation Project. Post,
Buckley, Schuh & Jernigan, Inc. (PBS&J) served as design
engineers for the City of Orlando, Florida. Background issues,
special considerations, and performance results from this award-winning facility are discussed next.
Project Background
The Little Econlockhatchee (Little Econ) is a primary
tributary to the Econlockhatchee River (Econ), which in
turn is a primary tributary to the St. Johns River (SJR). The
SJR system drains portions of the middle and upper east
coast of Florida to the Atlantic Ocean. Over the years,
much of the floodplain around both the SJR and the Econ
system has been altered by drainage systems and
subsequently converted to grazing lands for cattle. By
1980, 16 wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) in the
eastern Orange County area, discharged either primary or
secondary effluent to the Little Econ.
The Orlando Easterly Wetlands was constructed
on pasture land in an area which had been a
natural wetland prior to human settlement and
cattle grazing
The effects of these WWTP discharges on the Little Econ
included decreased dissolved oxygen levels and the
occurrence of Eichhornia crassipes (water hyacinth),
Hydrilla verticillata, Najas guadalupensis, the duckweeds,
and Panicum spp. which at times completely covered sections of the channel in the Econ system, and
also contributed to frequent algae blooms in Lake Harney, a node within the SJR. (Located about one
mile downstream of the confluence with the Econ, Lake Harney serves as a key indicator of water quality
conditions in the Econ watershed.)
As part of a commitment to improve water quality conditions in the Little Econ, the City of Orlando
began construction of an advanced wastewater treatment (AWT) plant which would replace a number of
the existing package plants. By 1980, Phase I of the Iron Bridge Regional Water Pollution Control
Facility (WPCF) was underway.
Permit regulations imposed on the Iron Bridge WPCF by the U.S.
Iron Bridge WPCF
Original Permit Conditions Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the Florida Department
of Environmental Protection (FDEP) were very stringent. Limitations for
both effluent concentrations and loadings were based on the Phase I flow
rate of 24 MGD. This meant that the capacity of future expansions to the
BOD5 5 mg/L (1001 lb/d)
treatment plant would be severely limited by the allowable effluent
5 mg/L (1001 lb/d) loading criteria in the USEPA National Pollutant Discharge Elimination
System (NPDES) and FDEP permits, or the City would have to find an
3 mg/L (600 lb/d) alternative discharge point.
1 mg/L (200 lb/d)
Faced with a growing population and the need for additional wastewater
treatment capacity, the City sought alternative effluent disposal options. An analysis of potential options
was completed in 1984. The overall scope of the study included an investigation of such disposal options
as deep well and aquifer injection, spray irrigation, moving the discharge point to another sub-basin of
the SJR system, water hyacinth treatment, and both natural and constructed wetlands treatment.
The conclusions of this study ranked the construction of a wetland for effluent disposal adjacent to the
floodplain of the SJR as the number one alternative. Selection criteria included economics, restoration of
previously lost wetlands, and creation of a wild-life habitat.
Siting Considerations
Critical to the successful design of the City's wetland system was
the selection of an appropriate location. The site selected was
about 1,640 acres in size and located about two miles west of the
main channel of the SJR. Review of historical data, including
surveys conducted in the late 1850s, indicated that much of the
site was previously part of the wetland system adjacent to the SJR.
An elaborate series of ditches had been used to drain the site when
it was converted to pastureland shortly after the turn of the century
. Since this conversion, it had been operated as a cattle ranch.
Using this site meant that more than 1,200 acres of land would be
restored to its natural wetland state.
Soil characteristics were another important consideration in site location. The surficial soils at the City's
wetland system are generally fine sands underlain by clayey soils. The depth of the clayey soils range
from the surface to several feet below the soil surface, and tend to restrict water movement downward to
the groundwater.
A hydraulic gradient that exists across the site directs groundwater flows toward the east, away from
residential wells located west of the site.
At the time the City acquired the site,
most of the on-site surface waters were
routed to a main canal that drained to a
backwater area of the SJR. The course
of the main canal bisected a natural
wetland owned by the St. Johns River
Water Management District
(SJRWMD) known as Seminole Ranch.
This canal formed part of a stormwater
management system on the SJRWMD
land that altered the natural wetland
such that transitional and upland
vegetation were invading the site.
Berms divide the 1,220-acre wetland system into treatment cells which
provide additional nutrient removal to treated effluent passing through
the site.
By using the discharge waters from the City's wetland treatment system, wetland hydrology on about 600
acres of the Seminole Ranch is being restored. Today, the water discharged from the City's wetland
moves by sheet flow through Seminole Ranch prior to discharge into the SJR.
Existing topography was also a key consideration in selecting the project site. With a topographic
gradient of about 15 feet across the site, the land slopes downward from the west to the east. The wetland
design used this gradient to divide the site into seventeen cells such that the average drop in elevation
across each cell was limited to approximately three feet. This allows each treatment cell within the
wetland system to be operated at dry season and wet season water depths that could range from sheet
flow to a maximum depth of three to five feet.
Permitting Considerations
Fluctuating water levels are critical for the maintenance of
desired plant communities within wetland treatment systems.
The primary objective in designing the City's system was to
use macrophytic communities to facilitate additional nutrient
removal for up to 20 mgd of treated effluent from the Iron
Bridge WPCF. The original permit issued by FDEP limited
flow to 8 mgd, due in part to the untested nature of the system.
Flow increases of about 3 to 5 mgd to a maximum of 20 mgd
are being permitted by FDEP as the system demonstrates its
ability to operate successfully at each increase. The current
system is operating at a flow rate of 13 mgd, and the City has
received approval from FDEP to increase flow to 16 mgd.
Anhingas and other bird species find the
Orlando Easterly Wetlands to be a safe
haven for raising their young.
FDEP and USEPA did not allow the City to use existing
permit conditions or wasteload allocations as the basis for nutrient limitations of the wetland discharge.
This situation was largely due to the continued degradation of water quality conditions in Lake Harney.
The USEPA NPDES and FDEP permits require that the wetlands' discharge meets existing background
water quality conditions in nearby natural wetlands as well as complies with the loadings established
under the wasteload allocation for discharges to the Little Econ.
The City conducted a 2.5-year water quality study in conjunction with the SJRWMD and FDEP to
estimate the nitrogen and phosphorus limits for the wetland's operating permits. The nitrogen and
phosphorus permit limits generated by this study are 2.31 mg/L and 0.2 mg/L, respectively.
Wildlife Considerations
A secondary objective of the Orlando Easterly Wetlands project was the creation of a wildlife habitat.
During the conceptual design phase, the wildlife management area was thought of as a function of the
wetland treatment process rather than as a specific plan for specific wildlife species. However, as
permitting and design proceeded, wildlife issues shifted from simple descriptions of potential species
occurrences in the general area of the wetland to the design of specific habitat types. This inclusion of
areas designed as a wildlife habitat within the City's wetland system allows the project to serve as a
valuable wildlife refuge and opens up the site for other uses in addition to wastewater treatment and
Developing the Wetlands
Approximately 1,220 acres of the project site were developed into the Orlando Easterly Wetlands project.
The system is divided into seventeen cells oriented across the site so that the first twelve cells comprise
about one-third of the total project area. The mixed marsh includes three cells that also comprise about
one-third of the total area. The remaining two cells form the hardwood swamp. The cells were defined by
constructing a series of earthen berms and were planted using about 2.1 million aquatic wetland plants.
Vegetation originally planted in the wetland are shown in Figure 2.
All fill material used to construct the berms was excavated from a borrow pit (shown as the lake in
Figure 1) located in the eastern part of the site. The habitat potential of the lake is enhanced by the use of
an irregular shoreline, the varied slope of the littoral zone, the varied water depths (e.g., the rim ditch
used to de-water the site was left in place and now averages up to 45 feet deep), and the placement of
construction debris within the lake for fisheries habitat.
The system began operation in September 1987. AWT effluent is pumped about 7 miles from the Iron
Bridge WPCF to a three-way splitter box at the wetland system, after which the water flows by gravity to
the outfall structure. Rectangular weir structures are used to control the flow internally; two-inch flash
boards are removed or inserted as needed. The berm design includes a three-foot freeboard capacity for
storage of stormwater inputs. This design allows the operators to
control the flows into and out of any given cell without
influencing the operation of the remaining areas of the wetland
treatment system. The average travel time through the Orlando
Easterly Wetlands varies from about 21 days during the dry
season to about 65 days during the rainy season.
Wetland Components
Water enters the Orlando Easterly Wetlands system through
Figure 2
the 12 cells that form the deep marsh. The deep marsh cells
Orlando Easterly Wetlands Reclamation
generally have an average depth of 3 to 3.5 feet and were
Project Species Planted
planted with cattails (Typha spp.) and bulrush (Scirpus
Red Maple (Acer rubrum)
spp.). These areas were planned as cattail communities at
the conceptual design stage, because the scientific literature
Water hyssop (Bacopa caroliniana)
at the time provided more information about using this
species than any other species for wastewater treatment.
Canna (Canna flaccida)
Sawgrass (Cladium jamaicense)
Spikerush (Eleocharis cellulosa)
Pop ash (Fraxinus caroliniana)
Dahoon Holly (Ilex cassine)
Blue flag (Iris hexagona)
Soft rush (Juncu s effusus)
Sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua)
Sweet bay (Magnolia virginica)
Stone wort (Nitella sp.)
Bulrush and Cattail communities remove and store most of the nutrients Cow lily (Nuphar luteum)
from effluent entering the wetland system.
Water lily (Nymphaea odorata)
Because cattails are potentially capable of competitively
eliminating other native plant species and consequently
reducing the diversity of the emergent plant communities in
the SJR basin, the SJRWMD voiced concern about the
formation of such a large cattail community so near to the
SJR. In response, PBS&J designed a large-scale in-situ
experiment for the City to test the treatment capabilities and
competitive effects of cattail versus bulrush communities.
As a result, the first 12 cells of the City's system are planted
with either cattails, bulrush, or a combination of the two.
Black gum (Nyssa sylvatica)
To date, the results indicate there are subtle differences
between the two plant species relative to water quality
improvement. The bulrush cells appear to have a slightly
Arrowhead (Sagittaria graminae)
Maidencane (Panicum hemitomon)
Knot grass (Paspalum distichum)
Smartweed (Polygonum punctatum)
Pickerelweek (Pontederia cordata)
Pondweed (Potamogeton illinoensis)
Swamp laurel oak (Quercus laurifolia)
Arrowhead (Sagittaria lancifolia)
greater nutrient uptake capacity than the cattail cells. The
bulrush also have proven to be more tolerant of water level
fluctuations than the cattails. The deep marsh cells are
designed to take advantage of the microbial communities
associated with the littoral zones within the cattail and
bulrush communities to remove and store most of the
nutrients entering the wetland system.
Three-square bulrush (Scripus
Giant bulrush (S. Californicus)
Soft stem bulrush (S. Validus)
Pond cypress (Taxodium ascendens)
Thalia (Thanlis geniculata)
The deep marsh cells are followed by three mixed marsh
cells. The mixed marsh is designed as a transition point
Cattail (Typha domingensis)
between the water treatment aspects of the wetland
Cattail (T. latifolia)
treatment system and those associated more closely with
wildlife habitat. Approximately 30 plant species were
Tapegrass (Vallisneria americana)
planted in the mixed marsh cells, and approximately 100
other species have become self established from the seed bank or off-site wetlands since system start-up.
Overall, the vegetative communities within the mixed marsh cells
provide a very diverse habitat structure. The mixed marsh cells act
as a nutrient polishing step to the deep marsh cells and maintain
nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations at lower levels than those
found in the deep marsh. An apparent difference in the nutrient
removal processes in the deep marsh and mixed marsh cells is that
the former relies more on bacterial uptake while algae are more
dominant in the latter.
More than 200 animals species use
the Orlando Easterly Wetland as
habitat today.
The final component of the Orlando Easterly Wetlands system is the
hardwood swamp. This area is specifically designed as a wildlife
habitat area. About 160,000 trees were planted throughout the cells,
intermixed with an understory similar to that typical of the mixed
marsh. In addition, an existing cypress (Taxodium spp.) head was
preserved, and the lake, developed from the borrow pit, was located
within these cells. Although the hardwood swamp cells were not
expected to play a significant role in the nutrient uptake before
system start-up, they have since proven to produce a net release of
phosphorus back into the water column. This release of phosphorus
can be partially attributed to the number of rookeries located within
these cells. The nesting bird species typically found in the rookeries
include several heron and egret species.
Measuring Success
In 1984, at the conclusion of the initial study which examined
disposal alternatives, the City established the goal of creating a
wetland treatment system that would provide both effluent polishing
and a wildlife management area. Since system start-up, the
performance of the Orlando Easterly Wetlands relative to nitrogen
and phosphorus uptake and storage has been better than originally
predicted by the design (see Table 1).
The data in Table 1 show that the Orlando Easterly Wetlands project
has consistently discharged a water quality that is better than the
permit requirements. The discharge has, in fact, been statistically
equal (æ < 0.05) to the water quality conditions in the SJR, both
upstream and downstream of the discharge point (see Table 2). These
data indicate that the system has acted to recover a resource-- fresh
water--that now is being used to hydrologically restore the SJRWMD
Wetland system designers included an
wetland site.
operational plan for maintaining
target communities and refuges for
forage species.
The annual performance of the system is shown by the data in Tables
3 and 4, with reference to Figure 1 for the station locations. These
data indicate the system has performed very well for the first four years of operation. This can be
partially attributed to the level of commitment by the City of Orlando to operate the system as a
treatment process and as a wildlife habitat area. Operational procedures, such as varying water depths,
employed by the project have attempted to minimize nutrient releases while maximizing the ability of the
wetland treatment system to remove and store nutrients. The data in Table 4 also show that phosphorus
concentrations are reduced to about 0.05 mg/L at the discharge point from the mixed marsh.
Water quality data are only one indication of the success of the Orlando Easterly system. Another
measure of success is the diversity of the system and the array of wildlife species attracted by this
Table 1
TN and TP Discharge
FDEP 13.00
1988 10.00
1989 13.33
1990 13.28
1991 12.90
Figure 4
Orlando Easterly Wetlands
Reclamation Project Observed
State and Federally Listed
Animal Species
Roseate spoonbill
Gree-backed heron
Little blue heron
Snowy egret
Tricolored heron
* This table compares the first four
Peregrine falcon
years of compliance data for the
Orlando Easterly Wetlands project with
Florida sandhill crane
the current FDEP permit criteria for TN
and TP discharges. Flows shown
Everglades snail kite
represent influent discharges to the
American alligator
wetland system.
Eastern indigo snake
The system has demonstrated that if properly managed, a constructed wetland can be used for water
treatment, water quality improvement, and diverse wildlife habitat. In fact, data collected to date indicate
that the system may attract more species than surrounding natural wetlands and generally may support a
higher resident population than similar natural habitat areas (see Figure 3). The latter can be directly
attributed to the higher productivity rates within the system.
The design of the Orlando Easterly Wetlands includes the preservation of upland areas around the site.
Maintenance of the upland/wetland ecotone has increased the value of the potential habitat for wetlanddependent species.
The design also included an operational plan, i.e. managing water depths for maintaining the hydroperiod
(optimal water depths and duration) for targeted vegetative communities in the system. This plan
addresses procedures for maintaining the refuges for the forage species, which ultimately will lead to
stabilizing the habitat of higher wildlife species such as birds, alligators, and otters.
Another measure of the Orlando wetlands success is the number of listed species which use the site
(shown in Figure 4). To date, 145 bird species have been observed on site and 10 of these species are
state or federally listed and are currently utilizing the system as part of their habitat. The sandhill crane
and Everglades kite have successfully nested in the wetlands and fledged young during the third and
fourth years of operation. This usage pattern of the wildlife habitat also serves as an on-going natural
bioassay of the system, showing that the water quality goals have been met in full.
Table 2
Comparison of TN and TP Discharge Concentrations with the Annual Averages of Receiving
(First Four Years)
TN (mg/L)
TP (mg/L)
HS10 = Orlando Easterly Wetlands Reclamation Project Discharge
SJR1 = Station in the St. Johns River Upstream of HS10
SJR5 = Station in the St. Johns River Downstream of HS10
SR = Average Annual Concentration for Seminole Ranch Monitoring Stations
Table 3
Comparison of TN Annual Averages Through the Orlando Easterly Wetlands Reclamation
(First Four Years)
Station (1)
Nitrogen (mg/L)
1988 1989 1990 1991 Area (2)
(1) These stations include influent and effluent samples in addition to four internal strat.
(2) Area equals the percent of wetland area upstream of the listed sample station.
Table 4
(First Four Years)
Station (1)
Phosphorus (mg/L)
1988 1989 1990 1991 Area (2)
0.572 0.720 0.41
0.103 0.080 0.16
0.102 0.065 0.14
0.106 0.070 0.11
0.091 0.050 0.05
0.095 0.076 0.09
0.23 0
0.37 11
0.12 16
0.11 32
0.06 67
0.087 100
(1) These stations include influent and effluent samples in addition to four internal strat.
(2) Area equals the percent of wetland area upstream of the listed sample station.
Community Acceptance
Orlando Easterly Wetlands Reclamation Project Awards
PBS&J Project Excellence Award
Florida Institue of Consulting Engineers Excellence Award
ACEC Excellence in Engineering Award
FDEP Secretary's Award, Florida Department of Environmental
State of Florida Governor's Environmental Award
Water Environment Federation Outstanding Achievement Award
(included with other City achievements) over the past 10 years
The success of the Orlando Easterly Wetlands Reclamation Project is
attributed not only to its success as a wastewater treatment facility and
reuse project, but also to the benefits it offers surrounding communities.
Land Acquisition.........$4,411,000 For visitors who wish to enjoy the beauty of Florida wildlife in a natural
Wetlands Development
habitat, a portion of the project functions as a wilderness park with
.......... Structural...........4,232,000 nature trails and seasonal camping facilities which are open from mid.......... Vegetation.............750,000 January through September.
Orlando Easterly Wetlands
Reclamation Project Costs
Force Main...................8,491,000 For area schools with environmental educations programs, it serves as a
Effluent Pump
natural laboratory and research facility. The result is a project which
exemplifies the current trend toward socially responsible environmental
Engineering....................1,659,000 management.
Numerous individuals have shared in the efforts to create and
implement the Orlando Easterly Wetlands Reclamation
Project. Listed below are some of the key groups and
Robert K. Bastian
Office of Wastewater Management
Washington, D.C.
City of Orlando, FL
Bill Frederick, Mayor
Robert C. Haven, P.E.
..........Chief Administrative Officer
Thomas L. Lothrop, P.E.
..........Director, Environmental Services
Elizabeth T. Skene, P.E.
..........Assistant Bureau Chief, Wastewater
Alan R. Oyler, P.E.
..........Assistant Bureau Chief, Wastewater
William P. Allman
..........Manager, Iron Bridge WPCF
Alex Alexander, P.E.
..........Disrtrict Director, Central District
Carlos Rivero deAguilar, P.E.
..........Program Administrator for Water Facilities
Christianne Ferraro, P.E.
..........Program Manager for Domestic Waste
James Hulbert
..........Environmental Administrator
Phillip E. Searcy, P.E.
..........Senior Executive Vice President
JoAnn Jackson, P.E.
..........Project Engineer
Seth B. Blitch
..........Project Biologist
Photo courtesy of Seth Blitch
John S. Shearer, P.E.
..........Director of Environmental Services
Prepared by Post, Buckley, Schuh & Jernigan, Inc.
1560 Orange Ave.,
Suite 700
Winter Park, FL 32789
(407) 647-7275
Jon C. Dyer, P.E.
Kathe Jackson
EPA Project Officer: Robert K. Bastian
Note: This information is provided for reference purposes only.
Although the information provided here was accurate and current
when first created, it is now outdated.
Disclaimer: The information in this website is entirely drawn from a 1993 publication, and has not
been updated since the original publication date. Users are cautioned that information reported at that
time may have become outdated.
Lakeland, FL - Wetland Treatment Systems: A Case
History - The Lakeland Wetland Treatment System
Project Background
Wetland Design
Site Conditions
Operational Results
Project Information
A Case History: Lakeland Wetland Treatment
The City of Lakeland (City) operates a 1,400 acre
wetland treatment system located just |east of the
town of Mulberry, Florida. The wetland system
serves as the final treatment process for the City
of Lakeland's 10.8 mgd Glendale Wastewater
Treatment Plant and their 4.0 mgd Northside
Wastewater Treatment Plant. These treatment
plants serve a combined population of
approximately 79,000 people within the city
limits, as well as portions of the unincorporated
areas of Polk County.
Many of the natural upland and wetland
communities within Polk County and the
surrounding counties have been replaced by
agricultural and industrial development. Citrus
Figure 1
and phosphate mining industries have altered the
Plan view of the site showing the relative locations of the
landscape around Lakeland to a greater extent
internal cells.
than any other development activity. The
Click on picture for larger image.
phosphate mines have provided the most dramatic
changes to the lands in Polk County by not only eliminating the natural ecosystems, but also by
significantly altering the topographic nature of these areas.
Restoration efforts within most of the abandoned mine sites have been limited in scope at best, since no
real efforts generally are made to restore the original topography and vegetative communities. Instead,
upland areas are normally replanted as monoculture pine forests, while most aquatic areas are comprised
of lakes formed in unfilled mine pits. Most emergent wetland communities are restricted to the littoral
zones of the lakes or are usually dominated by monoculture stands of cattails (Typha spp.) and/or
Carolina willow (Salix caroliniana).
Project Background
Originally, the City began treating wastewater on the Glendale site in 1926 using a 2.5 mgd primary
treatment plant. This plant began discharging effluent to Banana Lake via Stahl Canal, a practice that
continued for more than 65 years. In 1939 the City upgraded the treatment plant with trickling filters to
achieve secondary treatment. In the late 1950's and 1960's, the City rebuilt the trickling filters and
expanded the facility to 10 mgd. The City began diverting up to 5.5 mgd of effluent from the Glendale
treatment plant to the newly constructed C.D. McIntosh Jr. Power Plant for use as cooling water. In 1981
effluent pumped to the power plant was further treated on the power plant site and discharged (rapid
infiltration) to the surficial aquifer adjacent to Lake Parker, thereby reducing the flows and loadings to
Banana Lake. In 1988, the City expanded the wastewater treatment system to include its newly
constructed 4.0 mgd Northside plant. When the Northside plant went on-line, it became the primary
source of cooling water for the power plant.
The sustained effluent discharge to Banana Lake, along with agricultural
development in the Banana Lake watershed, severely degraded the water
quality of the lake and down stream waterways. Early in 1983, the
Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) indicated that
the City's discharge permit to Banana Lake would not be renewed due to
water quality problems in the lake. For this reason, both FDEP and the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) negotiated compliance
schedules with the City to cease discharging effluent to Stahl Canal and
Banana Lake.
One of the lakes located at the
downstream end of the
Faced with compliance schedules to cease discharging to Banana Lake,
the City retained Post, Buckley, Schuh & Jernigan, Inc. (PBS&J) to
develop and evaluate viable effluent disposal alternatives. Analysis of these alternatives indicated that
disposal via an artificial wetland system would be the most cost effective method of effluent disposal for
the existing Glendale plant. The Glendale facility has since been rerated to 10.8 MGD. The wetland site
selected includes 1,600 acres that were formally used by W.R. Grace Inc. as a phosphate settling area.
The site is characterized by a series of seven cells surrounded by levees. (See Figure 1.) Process waters
from the previous mining operation were recycled through the cells to settle solids out of the water
column. Overflow from the recycle system is discharged to the Alafia River. This process created a soil
gradient across the cells where course-grained sands settled on the influent side of cells 1, 2, and 3, while
fine clayey sediments settled on the effluent side of the cells. The settling process also created a
significant topographic gradient in the first three cells that slope downward from the influent to effluent
sides of the cell. The sediments in cells 4 through 7 are predominately nearly level fine clayey soils. A
shallow lake still exists on the downstream side of Cell 5, while cells 6 and 7 remain as deep lakes.
Figure 2. The influent structure aerates the water as it enters
the wetland.
Wetland Design
Since 1987, approximately 1,400 acres of the project site have been used
as part of the wetland treatment system. This area provides a permitted
treatment capacity of 14 mgd of secondary effluent, although the current
flows average approximately 8.0 mgd. Effluent is pumped from the
Glendale plant polishing ponds through 6.4 miles of force main to the
wetland system. In 1989, the influent to the wetland system was
augmented by the inclusion of blow down waters from the Unit No. 3
cooling tower at the McIntosh Power Plant, along with periodic
discharges from the ash ponds. Blow down waters from the power plant
are mixed with effluent from the wastewater treatment plants at the
Glendale plant and are then pumped to the wetland.
Weirs located along berms
covered with grout-filled fabric
revetments distribute flow into
the cells 2 and 3.
The introduction of the cooling waters and the ash pond effluent
has significantly increased the total dissolved solids
concentrations to the wetland. As an example, the average
annual influent conductivity levels have increased.
The influent enters the wetland through a cascade inlet structure,
as shown in Figure 2. The inlet structure is designed to aerate
the influent waters through turbulent fall down the structure's 13
steps. The flow is split at the inlet structure between two
Fabriform lined ditches that lie along the eastern boundary
(influent side) of Cell 1. Water is discharged from the
distribution ditches through weirs located every 100 feet along
The H-flume outlet structure controls
the ditch. Flow rates through individual weirs can be controlled
flows leaving the wetlands.
by the addition or removal of flashboards. Once the water passes
through the cell it is collected and discharged to Cell 2. This general pass through and collection system
is repeated in cells 2 and 3. These three cells have the greatest change in topography. This system helps
better distribute flow in these cells.. Cells 4 through 7 do not have distribution ditches. An H-flume outlet
structure located at the south end of Cell 7 is used to monitor and control flows leaving the wetland site.
A meteorological station provides data to assist in the preparation of annual water budgets for the
Site Conditions
When the City assumed control of the wetland site, much of the
interior of cells 1 through 4 were covered by cattails and Carolina
willow. Upland islands within the cells generally were vegetated
by undesirable grass/herbaceous species, and in some areas by
pine (Pinus spp.) and live oak (Quercus virginiana) tree species.
Vegetation in the upstream areas of Cell 5 was a mixture of
cattails and Carolina willow, while the downstream half of the
cell was a shallow lake system that was ringed by a dense
population of water hyacinths (Eichhornia crassipes). Densities
of algal populations in this lake often created a lime green color
in the open water areas.
Although minimal disruption of the existing wetland vegetation
within the treatment cells resulted from the construction
activities, restoration grant monies received by the City from the
Florida Department of Natural Resources were used to plant trees
including black gum, red maple, sweet bay, swamp laurel oak, bald cypress, dahoon holly, and pop ash,
within certain areas of cells 1 through 5. Secondly, the water hyacinths were removed from Cell 7 in
response to concerns, voiced by the Polk County Environmental Services Division, that operation of the
wetland system would increase mosquito production in areas covered by water hyacinths.
In operation since 1987, the Lakeland
Wetland Treatment System offers wildlife
a natural habitat.
The areas along the eastern sides of cells 1 and 2 were originally barren sands or sparsely covered by
upland grass species. These were the only areas planted with herbaceous wetland vegetation during
construction. In both cells the pre-construction vegetation was cleared to allow the site to be graded.
Initially, the highly permeable sandy soils made it difficult to establish wetland vegetation in these areas.
However, after five years of operation both areas now support dense communities of wetland vegetation.
Operational Results
The original design objectives for the wetland
treatment system were to improve the City's
effluent quality beyond the secondary level
(shown in Table 1 as Original Goals). Since startup of the wetland system, state legislation was
enacted that required the wetland to meet even
more advanced wastewater treatment levels (also
shown in Table1 as Existing Permit Conditions).
Table 1 provides a summary of the influent
BOD, TSS, TN & TP concentrations, water
quality after passing through the first two cells
(represented by station G3) that are primarily
emergent wetlands, and the final effluent
discharge structure. The average annual
concentrations for the first four years of
operation are presented, as well as the FDEP and
USEPA permit limits. As shown, the wetland
effluent quality has consistently met the permit
limits, with the exception of TSS for 1990 and
1991. This can be at least partially attributed to
increased algal populations in the last four cells
within the wetland. Cell 7 previously was
covered by water hyacinths, which served to
limit the concentration of algae near the effluent
structure. The removal of the water hyacinths in
response to county concerns has allowed the
algal concentrations to increase which appears to
interfere with the wetlands ability to maintain
TSS concentrations below permit limits. The
City currently is working with FDEP, USEPA,
and PBS&J to lower water levels in cells 3
through 6, and to increase the density and
distribution of macrophytic vegetation in cells 4
through 7. Increased densities of macrophytic
vegetation in the latter four cells should help
limit the density of algae in these cells and,
consequently, reduce their contribution to TSS in
the effluent.
The wetland also has provided habitat for a
Table 1.
Water quality results for the first four years of
* Effluent phosphorus limits are exempted due to
the high background phosphorus levels in the
receiving stream.
Project Capital Costs
variety of
Pump Station
are the
formed by
storks (Mycteria americana), white pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos), cormorants (Phalacrocorax
auritus) anhingas (Anhinga anhinga), white ibis (Eudocimus albus), and several egret and heron species
on the upland islands within cells 5, 6, and 7. In addition, there are several bobcat (Felix rufus) and otter
(Lutra canadensis) families now living within the boundaries of the wetland.
The wide variety of wildlife inhabitint the wetlands includes anhinga and
numerous other waterfowl.
Numerous individuals have contributed to the success of the Lakeland Wetland Treatment System. Listed
below are some of the key groups and individuals.
City of Lakeland
John K. Allison, former Public Works Director
Virgil Caballero, Wastewater Superintendent
David Hill, Project Biologist
Edward G. Snipes Jr. , Permit Coordinator
G.J. Thabaraj, Engineer
Bhupendra Vora, Grants Coordinator USEPA
R. Morrell, Project Director
M. Walch, Project Manager
K. Keefer, Project Engineer
J. Jackson, Project Engineer
Robert K. Bastian
Office of Wastewater Management
Washington, D.C.
Prepared by Post, Buckley, Schuh & Jernigan, Inc.
1560 Orange Ave., Suite 700
Winter Park, FL 32789
(407) 647-7275
Jon C. Dyer, P.E.
John S. Shearer, P.E., Director, Environmental Services
Note: This information is provided for reference purposes only.
Although the information provided here was accurate and current
when first created, it is now outdated.
Disclaimer: The information in this website is entirely drawn from a 1993 publication, and has not
been updated since the original publication date. Users are cautioned that information reported at that
time may have become outdated.
Incline Village, NV - Incline Village General
Improvement District Wetlands Enhancement
Facility: A Total Evaporative Constructed Wetland
Treatment/Disposal System
Site Description
Operations and Management
Ancillary Benefits
Incline Village, Nevada, uses a constructed
wetland for disposal of secondary effluent.
Starting with an existing, mineralized, warmwater wetland near Minden, Nevada, the
Incline Village General Improvement District
developed a system which uses natural
processes both to renovate wastewater and
benefit wildlife. With this system, Incline
Village can meet several goals to protect the
dispose of treated effluent effectively
and economically
expand the existing wetland habitat for
provide an educational experience for
Until 1975, effluent treated at the Incline
Village General Improvement District's 3.0mgd activated sludge plant was exported from
the Lake Tahoe Basin and discharged into the
Carson River during the winter and used for
irrigation of hay fields during the summer.
The Incline Village Wetlands Enhancement Facility is located
south of Carson City, Nevada, about 10 miles east of Lake
A discharge permit issued in 1975 required either more stringent treatment standards or a year-round,
land-based disposal system. In 1979, a facility plan funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) and prepared by CH2M HILL recommended meeting a zero surface discharge standard by using
land application during the growing season and constructed wetland enhancement during the remainder
of the year. Local agency reviews and public hearings were held, and the wetland concept was finally
approved in 1982. The project was designed by the environmental engineering firm, Culp·Wesner·Culp,
with technical assistance from Dr. Robert Kadlec of the Wetlands Research Group. The design was
completed in 1983 and construction was finished in November 1984.
A 20-mile pipeline carries the treated effluent from the treatment plant to
the Wetlands Enhancement Facility. Constructed wetland cells, berms, a
flood dike, and a distribution ditch are the main components of the
system. The 770-acre site is made up of several distinct areas:
constructed wetlands
natural warm-water wetlands
seasonal storage/waterfowl areas
effluent storage area
upland area
Eight constructed wetland cells are the primary disposal area for the
treated effluent. There is no surface discharge from the wetland disposal
area because of evaporative water losses. Each cell has a deep channel
down its center that discourages growth of emergent vegetation and
furnishes a landing area for waterfowl. Islands within this channel serve
as nesting sites.
A resident population of
Canada geese use the berms
and islands for nesting.
The natural warm-water
wetland provides a natural
habitat for plants and animals and is not part of the disposal
Wetland treatment cells with islands were
constructed around the existing warm-water
The seasonal storage/waterfowl areas store excess water
during periods of low evaporation and high rainfall. They are
dry during summer and fall, except for a small ponded area
fed by warm-water springs. Three islands in this area provide
nesting habitat for waterfowl. Each of the islands was
planted to provide food, screened areas, and trees for birds.
The 2.8-million-gallon effluent storage area is used only
during high flows or heavy rainfall. The 200-acre upland area is used to dispose of effluent by spray
irrigation during extended rainy weather.
Operations and Management
The treated effluent passes through the 390-acre system of wetland cells and is disposed of through
evaporation, transpiration (evaporation through plants), and percolation (seepage through soil). The
system works in harmony with the existing warm-water wetlands, adapts well to year-round fluctuations
in weather and temperature, and meets state and EPA water-quality requirements while avoiding surface
discharge to the Carson River.
Effluent flows from Cell 1 through Cells 2, 3, and 4 before overflowing to the distribution ditch.
Overflows from Cells 3 and 4 are diverted to Cell 5 for storage and evaporation. Water that must be
stored is held in Cells 6, 7, and 8.
Using weather instrumentation and monitoring equipment, plant operators determine rainfall,
evapotranspiration and percolation rates, and groundwater quality. These data are used to estimate the
evaporation rates at the site and to determine compliance with groundwater quality standards.
The size of the constructed wetland needed for evapotranspiration and percolation of effluent was
determined by calculating several water balances for the site. Evaporation rates were estimated with the
Penman method and were based on limited data available for the area. Subtracting the evapotranspiration
and percolation from the rainfall yielded the net water loss from the site. Dividing the net water loss into
the effluent volume gave an estimate of the required acreage.
Percolation is critical to successful operation of the project. At least 1.1 inches of percolation per month
is required at the projected flow rate. If percolation occurs at this rate, only 175 acres are needed to treat
the effluent. If percolation does not occur, as much as 450 acres would be required.
The Incline Village Wetlands Enhancement Facility includes a total of 770 acres of wetlands and uplands.
The concentration effect of evaporation can be seen in the increase of total dissolved solids as water moves through
the cells.
The concentration of ammounium nitrogen is reduced as the water flows through
the cells.
Because there is zero discharge to surface waters from the Incline Village Wetlands Enhancement
Facility, no surface water quality criteria must be met. However, many parameters of regulatory interest
are monitored in the wetland cells. Even though all surface water evaporates or is lost to percolation,
water quality improvements can be observed as the water passes through the cells in a serial pattern.
For seven years, nitrogen and phosphorus levels have been reduced in the water, even during the winter.
Nutrients in the last cells display only 2 to 3 percent of the concentration values in the incoming
wastewater effluent.
The effect of evaporation can be seen in the increases of total dissolved solids (TDS) and chloride ion as
water moves through the cells. The evaporites in the original desert soils are rearranged by water
movement, with increases in concentrations in the downstream cells. However, there is no evidence of a
continuing buildup of these ions in the downstream cells. Apparently, transport of solutes from upstream
to downstream cells has reached a balance with other processes.
Wetlands Design Criteria
Flow, Average Annual......................1.66 mgd
Flow, Maximum Daily.......................2.68 mgd
Influent Quality
.......... Suspended Solids...................20 mg/l
.......... BOD5....................................20 mg/l
.......... TDS.......................................240 mg/l
.......... Total Phosphorus as P............6.5 mg/l
.......... Total Nitrogen as N................25 mg/l
Constructed Wetland Area
.......... Cell 1......................................37.9 acres
.......... Cell 2......................................33.2 acres
.......... Cell 3.......................................27.3 acres
.......... Cell 4.......................................23.4 acres
.......... Cell 5 (overflow area)................117.3 acres
.......... Cell 6 & 7 (floodplain area).......105.6 acres
.......... Cell 8 (seasonal storage)................42.5 acres
Wetland Depth
.......... Emergent Marsh......................................0.5 feet
.......... Open Water......................................2.0-3.0 feet
Ancillary Benefits
Plant Communities
Vegetation is essential to the success of the wetland. Plants
increase evapotranspiration by as much as 20 percent in the
summer and improve water quality. Wetland vegetation
includes rush meadow, threesquare bulrush, tule cattail, and
willow thickets. Upland vegetation consists primarily of
sagebrush, rabbitbrush, greasewood, and salt grass, which
tolerate the alkaline soils. Floodplain vegetation includes
rabbitbrush and salt grass, plants which can exist in saline, silty
loam, and clay soils.
Project implementation has allowed existing plant species to
flourish. Careful planting of hundreds of trees and bushes
added a new component to the ecosystem, with taller
vegetation providing new perching and nesting areas for hawks
and eagles.
Wildlife Habitat
The yellow-headed blackbird prefers
nesting in the emergent marsh areas.
The wetlands provide three types of wildlife habitat:
permanent wetlands, seasonal wetlands, and uplands.
Many types of aquatic and nonaquatic wildlife coexist at the
site. Aquatic invertebrates such as insects, worms, snails, and
crayfish eat algae and other plants and serve as food for larger
organisms. Fish such as largemouth bass, black bullhead,
green sunfish, mosquito fish, and carp were identified before
construction and were transferred to several areas within the
Migratory trumpeter swans find winter
habitat at the wetlands enhancement
Birds occupying the site include ducks and geese, shore birds,
raptors (hawks and eagles), and passerine (such as blackbirds).
Many migratory species travel through the Carson Valley and
nest on the islands in the seasonal storage/waterfowl area or
the grassy areas along the edges of the cells. Animals common
to the area include deer, coyote, skunk, mink, muskrat, rabbit, squirrel, chipmunk, and the western
yellow-bellied racer.
Recreational Uses
An observation area is provided at the operations building in the southeast corner of the site to encourage
the public to enjoy and learn about man's use of his natural environment. Observation trails traverse the
warm-water wetlands and created wetlands so that visitors may experience the diverse wildlife and
vegetation at the site and see how the project operates.
The natural warm-water wetlands provide a year-round
habitat when the constructed wetland cells are dry.
Incline Village General Improvement District
Elected Trustees
Robert Wolf, Chairman
Pamela T. Wright, Vice-Chairman
Roberta Gang, Secretary
Jane Maxfield, Trustee
Greg McKay, Trustee
Professional Staff
Robert A. Hunt, General Manager
John F. Shefchik, District Engineer
Don N. Richey, Sr., Operations Superintendent
Grant Funding
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 9
Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, Construction Grant Section
Design Team
..........Facilities Plan and Conceptual Design
Robert Chapman, Project Engineer
Richard Mishaga, Environmental Scientist
Culp$#183;esner$#183;, Design
Wetlands Ecosystem Research Group, Wetlands Consultation
Robert Kadlec, Senior Consultant
This brochure was prepared by CH2M HILL for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Project Cost
$772, 503
Total Project
Innovative/Alternative grants funded 85 percent of the project.
Note: This information is provided for reference purposes only.
Although the information provided here was accurate and current
when first created, it is now outdated.
Disclaimer: The information in this website is entirely drawn from a 1993 publication, and has not
been updated since the original publication date. Users are cautioned that information reported at that
time may have become outdated.
ShowLow, AZ - Pintail Lake and Redhead Marsh:
Created Wetlands in Northern Arizona
Treatment Facility
Site Description
Design and Layout
Operation and Monitoring
Treated municipal wastewater is being used in N.E. Arizona to create some very interesting wetlands.
Wildlife response to this new habitat has been dramatic with over 120 species of birds using them. The
local community is justly proud of this example of environmental innovation and cooperation.
The City of Show Low built its first wastewater collection and treatment system in 1958. It consisted of
sewer lines, serving the original townsite and contiguously built up areas of the city, and two stabilization
ponds for treatment. Effluent was discharged directly into Show Low Creek, adjacent to the treatment
plant, eventually reaching Fool Hollow Lake. Nutrient loading resulted in accelerated lake
eutrophication, algae blooms, and resulting fish kills.
In 1970, with the cooperation of the U.S. Forest Service, wastewater discharge into the creek was halted.
The effluent was pumped two miles north to a natural depression known as Telephone Lake where it
contributed to the development of wildlife habitat. In 1977, due to increasing population and resulting
effluent flows, the treatment system was expanded to include additional natural depressions to the East
which became known as Pintail and South Lake Marshes. In Pintail Lake the U.S. Forest Service began
to construct islands to enhance waterfowl reproduction.
By 1982 wastewater flows exceeded the treatment plant's design capacity. Discharges directly into Show
Low Creek and decreased quality of effluent delivered to the marsh treatment areas resulted in degraded
habitat quality and sharply decreased waterfowl populations. In 1985 the City began to work on a long
term solution to the problems of treatment plant capacity and providing high quality effluent to the
created wetlands.
The solution selected was to deepen and improve the existing treatment lagoons by adding aeration,
increase pumping capacity, add stabilization ponds for secondary treatment, increase the capacity of
Telephone Lake for effluent storage, and add additional marsh capacity for final treatment and reuse.
Pintail Lake in winter.
Treatment Facility
The City of Show Low wastewater
treatment facility now consists of two
aerated lagoons that may be operated in
series or parallel, a lift station with two
1,150 gpm pumps, four biological
stabilization ponds that may also be
operated in series or parallel, a chlorination
contact chamber, effluent storage and
clarification in Telephone Lake, nutrient
removal in constructed riparian areas, and
eventual reuse in constructed waterfowl
Aerial view.
Site Description
The created wetlands at Pintail Lake and Redhead Marsh are located 4 miles north of the City of Show
Low, Arizona. This is in the high country of northeastern Arizona. The wetlands are on National Forest
Service Lands administered by the Apache/Sitgreaves National Forests.
The climate has a dominant influence on the
functions of the created wetlands. This area
has four definite seasons. Spring is very
windy with gusts over 50 mph. This can
cause severe bank erosion if vegetation isn't
High Temp. Low Temp. Record Low Precip.
established. Net evaporation can exceed 12
inches per month in May and June. Summer
is characterized by the onset of a monsoon
type pattern with frequent showers and high
night time temperatures. Fall is ushered in
as the rainfall diminishes and nights get
colder. Winter is marked by colder
temperatures and the wetlands freeze over.
April 63.9°F
Ice may occur 1 to 2 months of winter.
Snow depths of 3 to 12 inches are common.
Weather Summary
The soils of this area are heavy clays with low water
permeability. The natural vegetation is typical pinyon-juniper
woodland. This is a very common vegetation type in this area.
The topography is flat to moderately sloping with some natural
basins which form Pintail and Telephone Lakes. The elevation
above sea level is 6,350 to 6,380 ft.
Water control structure at Redhead Marsh.
Evaporation from wetland surfaces is a key factor affecting their functions. Total evaporation exceeds
precipitation by 48 inches per year. The evaporative loss is greatest during the months of May and June
which account for one half of the year's total. During winter months evaporation is near zero, so ponds fill
up and total storage capacity becomes a concern.
Design and Layout
Since the construction of the first wetland at Pintail Lake in 1978, there
has been a gradual evolution of the wetlands. In 1985 a major expansion
occurred with the construction of Redhead Marsh. This surge of
construction was required as effluent volumes produced began
exceeding treatment and disposal capacities. The present system is
designed to handle 1.42 million gallons of wastewater per day to serve a
population of 13,500.
Size of Wetlands
Telephone Lake..........45
Pintail Lake.................57
South Marsh...............19
Redhead Marsh..........49
Bullseye Marsh.............1
Ned Lake...................15
Riparian Area..............15
Total Acres = 201 acres
The system was designed to integrate several lakes and marshes into an effective wetlands complex.
Flexibility in management options was built in to accommodate changes from year to year. The water
delivery system was designed to provide additional treatment before the effluent reaches Redhead Marsh.
Operation and Monitoring
main techniques used in operating the wetland complex involve the management of the water. The
quantity, quality, and delivery routes are varied to manage the wetland habitat. The flexibility designed
into the system allows a variety of management options. For example, water control structures with
adjustable water boards are used to hold water levels at desired levels. Water can be diverted away from
some ponds to allow them to dry up. This is desired to allow for maintenance and to accomplish
vegetation management goals.
Monitoring of the wetlands is conducted in accordance with the requirements of the Arizona Department
of Environmental Quality by the City of Show Low. Additional monitoring is conducted by the Arizona
Game and Fish Department and the U.S. Forest Service.
As water progresses through the system, water quality improves. For example, secondary effluent
coming from the polishing ponds flows into Telephone Lake, then into an open channel which delivers it
to the riparian area. After the riparian area, the water flows into another open channel and is finally
delivered to pond one of the Redhead Marsh. During this delivery process the water quality greatly
improves. The following charts show the removal rates for nitrogen and phosphorus as water moves
through the system.
Pintail Lake and Redhead Marshes have exceeded the original objectives and expectations. What started
out as a project to favor waterfowl has developed into a complex of wetland ecosystems with a wide
range of benefits. Similar projects in other areas have been developed as a result of the success here.
Experience has shown that the addition of water to these previously arid sites brings on dramatic
vegetation changes. A prime objective has been the establishment of a vigorous vegetative cover. Cattail,
water grass, spike rush, and various sedges have become established naturally in the created wetlands
while others such as hardstem, softstem, and alkali bulrushes and sego pondweed have been successfully
The response of animals to the new wetlands has been exciting. After 3 years of data collection on Pintail
Lake, L. Piest (1981) stated: “The response of breeding waterfowl has been dramatic. I estimated that
1,544 ducklings or 76.4 ducklings per hectare (30.93 per acre), were produced in 1981.” The response of
other birds has been similar with the establishment of cormorant and black-crowned night heron
rookeries in the new wetlands.
To date ten bird species which are classified as
endangered, threatened, or sensitive have been seen
using the wetlands. These include the bald eagle,
peregrine falcon, osprey, northern goshawk, snowy
egret, belted kingfisher, American avocet, sora rail,
black-crowned night heron, and the double-crested
cormorant. Four of these species (the avocet, sora rail,
blackcrowned night heron, and cormorant) have been
found nesting here. A survey done in 1991 to
document total bird use on a weekly basis found 120
different species of birds using the created wetlands.
Some of the birds are predators, feeding on fathead
minnows, a small fish that inhabits part of this
wetland system. Other animals found in the wetlands
include rocky mountain elk, mule deer, pronghorn,
black bear, coyote, raccoon, and various kinds of amphibians.
Shorebirds using Telephone Lake.
People are also attracted to these wetlands for a variety of reasons— to relax and watch animals is
probably the intent of most people. Facilities were provided to improve wildlife viewing at Pintail Lake.
School groups often use these wetlands for environmental field trips. The concepts of wastewater
cleanup and recycling have more meaning after experiencing the created wetlands.
Since the first wetland was built at Pintail Lake
in 1978 to the present, the wetlands have been a
cooperative effort. The "core team," which
started the project and continues to make it
successful today, include the City of Show Low,
the Arizona Game and Fish Department, and the
U.S. Forest Service.
Other groups have also played a major role. The
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has
provided guidance and funding for this
innovative wastewater treatment project. The
Arizona Department of Environmental Quality
is involved in the monitoring and operational
permitting process.
The wetland project is also supported by the
local communities. This includes the local
schools with their field trips. The White
Mountain Chapter of the Audubon Society with
the field trips and work projects.
L. Piest, 1981. "Evaluation of Waterfowl
Habitat Improvements on the Apache/Sitgreaves
National Forests, Arizona." USDA/Forest
Service. 119pp.
Newly established cormorant rookery.
Note: This information is provided for reference purposes only.
Although the information provided here was accurate and current
when first created, it is now outdated.
Disclaimer: The information in this website is entirely drawn from a 1993 publication, and has not
been updated since the original publication date. Users are cautioned that information reported at that
time may have become outdated.
Pinetop/Lakeside, AZ - Jacques Marsh: A Created
Wetland in Northeastern Arizona
Wastewater Treatment Facility
Site Description
Design and Construction
Operation and Monitoring
Cooperation between public agencies and nature can have amazing result. The innovative decision to
use treated municipal wastewater to create wetland wildlife habitat continues to pay off for the local
community. Like a biological magnet, the new wetlands attract a wide variety of wildlife and of course
people to watch them.
Jacques Marsh is a constructed wetland that is a component of the
wastewater management system of the Pinetop-Lakeside Sanitary
District. It is the result of a cooperative effort between the U.S.
Forest Service, Arizona Game and Fish Department, and the
Pinetop Lakeside Sanitary District. The manmade marsh was
constructed on National Forest Service Lands in an area with no
historical ponds, lakes or wetlands. However, once established the
marsh closely represents a natural wetland in terms of plants and
wildlife present at the site.
The surface and groundwaters of the community were considered
to be contaminated in the 1970's and the Pinetop-Lakeside
Sanitary District was formed in 1973 to clean up these waters.
With assistance of an EPA construction grant the wastewater
collection system, a 2 million gallon per day secondary treatment
plant and Jacques Marsh were completed in 1980. The 127 acres of marsh and ponds currently receive
about one million gallons of treated wastewater per day.
The community is proud of its decision to construct Jacques Marsh to recycle their reclaimed water
rather than discharge effluent from the treatment plant into Billy Creek which runs through the area.
Many worries about pollution and human contact were eliminated and a striking wildlife area was
created. The use of Jacques Marsh for recreation, outdoor education, and wildlife has been well worth the
Jacques Marsh 1990.
Wastewater Treatment Facility
The wastewater treatment plant operated by the Pinetop-Lakeside Sanitary District is a 2 million gallon
per day activated sludge plant. Treatment consists of comminutors, hydrostatic screens and a vortex grit
system followed by aeration in a 2 million gallon oxidation channel. Organic material in the wastewater
is stabilized during this part of the process.
Following aeration for 24 hours in the channel, the flow is directed into two secondary clarifiers
(sedimentation tanks) for separation of the organic solids from the treated wastewater. In the secondary
clarifiers, solids are settled out by gravity and recycled to the oxidation channel, or removed. The
effluent is drawn from the top of the secondary clarifiers, chlorinated and pumped to the Jacques
Wetlands Marsh System.
The sludge that is removed is pumped to an aerobic digester. Following digestion, the sludge is
dewatered (concentrated) by Somat Dewatering Screws and pumped to an Eweson Co-Composting
digester to be mixed with municipal solid waste. This 12 week process reduces 20 tons of material (14
tons of municipal solid waste plus 6 tons of sludge) to around 11 tons of marketable compost. Since this
co-composting facility became operational, it has utilized 100% of the sludge from the wastewater
treatment plant and 80% of the residential solid waste produced by the Town of Pinetop-Lakeside.
PLSD's on-site testing lab.
Site Description
The created wetlands at Jacques Marsh are located 1 mile
north of the town of Pinetop-Lakeside, Arizona. This is in
the high country of northeastern Arizona. The wetlands are
on National Forest Service Lands administered by the
Apache/Sitgreaves National Forests.
The climate has a dominant influence on the functions of
the created wetlands. This area has four definite seasons.
Spring is very windy with gusts over 50 mph. This can
cause severe bank erosion if vegetation isn't established.
Net evaporation can exceed 7 inches per month in May and
June. Summer is characterized by the onset of a monsoon
type pattern with frequent showers and high humidities.
Plants respond quickly to the higher night time
temperatures. Fall is ushered in as the rainfall diminishes and nights get colder. The first frosts occur
during the last part of September. Winter is marked by colder temperatures and the wetlands freeze over.
Ice may occur for 1 to 2 months of winter. Snow depths of 6 to 16 inches are common.
The clay soils of the Jacques Marsh site are of volcanic origin. They have low permeability to water. This
is a key factor in the wetland design. The natural soils were used to form the marsh basins.
The natural vegetation of the site was ponderosa pine, Utah juniper and pinyon pine. This is a very
common vegetation type in this mountain area. The animals occurring in this area include rocky
mountain elk, mule deer, Merriam turkey, black bear, and coyotes. Common birds are Stellers jay,
western bluebird, redshafted flicker, and raven. Waterfowl are common where water occurs. The
Intermountain Biotic Province is the greatest source of waterfowl using this site.
Weather Summary
High Temp. Low Temp. Record Low Precip.
Design and Construction
Net Evaporation Jacques Marsh is different than most constructed wetlands
because it doesn't occupy a natural basin or drainageway.
The relatively level site was selected because it has a clay
soil of sufficient depth to provide material for dike
Month . Inches construction and a low percolation rate.
Pond Sizes
Several hundred soil borings were made to map the size and
. 16.36
thickness of the clay layer. Heavy earth moving equipment 1
performed the necessary cut and fill to create the dikes and 2
. 21.86
islands which form the physical features of the marsh.
. 18.56
. 4.66
A pipeline was installed to carry the reclaimed water which
. 7.70
is pumped up hill from the treatment plant to the marsh.
Outlets allow for water to be pumped directly into 5 of the 7 6
. 10.95
ponds. Interpond concrete structures allow water to flow
. 12.08
from one pond into another. These structures are equipped
with water boards to maintain predetermined water levels in
. 35.0
each pond. This flexibility of managing water levels is a key
factor in operating the marsh.
. 127.17
The "V" shaped nesting islands were designed to retard wave erosion. The points of
the islands face the prevailing wind and the back sides provide back water areas for
Total . -41.75 resting waterfowl. The purpose of the islands is to provide nesting sites which are
safe from predators such as skunks and coyotes. The perimeter of the area was fenced to keep out
domestic livestock.
Operation and Monitoring
The effluent produced by the Pinetop-Lakeside Sanitary District's treatment plant has the following
Mo. Avg.
Biological Oxygen
2-3 mg/l
2.4 mg/l
Total Suspended
1-13 mg/l
6.4 mg/l
2.1-5.4 ntu
3.6 ntu
The treated wastewater is provided to a combination of the 7
ponds each year in accordance with the habitat management
plan. Waterfowl habitat needs and plant requirements are the
primary factors affecting management of the ponds and
As water proceeds from one pond to another in the marsh,
nitrogen and phosphorus are removed from the water. These
nutrients are taken up by plants and animals and contribute
to the overall productivity of the marsh. The following
summarizes the removal rates for nitrogen and phosphorus
for the months of February, March, April and May 1991:
Aerial view of treatment facility.
Total N
Total P
Pond 1
Pond 2
In addition to monitoring surface water quality, the Pinetop-Lakeside Sanitary District samples 3 shallow
wells on a quarterly basis to insure groundwater quality is not being impacted.
What started out as a curiosity, putting wastewater to good use, has now become an attraction to many
forms of life. Visitors are usually treated to a surprise package of sights and sounds provided by a vibrant
marsh ecosystem.
In the winter bald eagles are a common sight and in the summer peregrine falcons are occasionally seen.
The peak periods of waterfowl use occur during the spring and fall migration. The islands provide
excellent duck nesting habitat. Elk are attracted to the marsh in the fall and winter where they consume
the dry vegetation.
Of course the diversity of plants and animals attracts many human visitors. The area is popular with the
viewing and hunting public. Jacques Marsh is a point of local pride. The residents of the cities of Pinetop
and Lakeside have supported the project since it's inception.
A major side benefit of the created marshes has been the opportunity for interaction with the local
schools. The marshes now function as outdoor classrooms where many environmental principles are
taught including recycling and water cleanup. In 1989 a local group of 140 fourth graders were treated to
the sight of a peregrine falcon hunting shore birds as they toured the wetland.
Elk using Jacques Marsh
Jacques Marsh is the result of many agencies and individuals
working toward common goals. The U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency provided much of the funding under the
Clean Water Act. The Pinetop-Lakeside Sanitary District
provided funding and constructed the system. The Arizona
Game and Fish Department agreed to maintain the wetland
after construction. The Apache/Sitgreaves National Forests
provided 255 acres of land and developed the habitat. The
Arizona Department of Environmental Quality provided
technical guidance and operational permits for the facility.
The wetland came together as a result of dedicated effort,
and a vision of the future held by several people. Adrian
Hill, District Forest Ranger of the Apache/Sitgreaves
National Forests, and Jack O'Neil, Game Specialist for the
Arizona Game and Fish Department, worked hard at
garnering their respective agencies support for the project.
U.S. Forest Service Wildlife Biologists Leon Fager and
James McKibben provided the technical and planning
support to make the project viable. The Board of Directors of
the Pinetop-Lakeside Sanitary District played a key role in
obtaining the support of the local communities. This group
of dedicated individuals didn't permit doubt, policy, politics, or the "but it's never been done here before"
attitude to stop them. Jacques Marsh is a tribute to them and to many others who followed for the past 17
Note: This information is provided for reference purposes only.
Although the information provided here was accurate and current
when first created, it is now outdated.
Disclaimer: The information in this website is entirely drawn from a 1993 publication, and has not
been updated since the original publication date. Users are cautioned that information reported at that
time may have become outdated.
Fort Deposit, AL: Constructed Wetland Treatment
System Case History
System Description
Operations and Management
Ancillary Benefits
The town of Fort Deposit, located south of Montgomery,
Alabama, has a population of slightly more than 1,500. Until
1985, the town's wastewater was treated in a 10-acre waste
stabilization pond and consistently met discharge limits. In
1985, a new discharge permit was issued by the Alabama
Department of Environmental Management. This permit
required the town to meet more stringent standards based on
water quality limitations in the receiving water. Since the
town's stabilization pond was unable to meet the new
standards, an administrative order requiring the town to
upgrade its system was issued.
An engineering analysis of treatment alternatives was
conducted by the environmental consulting firm CH2M HILL
to compare a variety of conventional and innovative
technologies. On the basis of an evaluation of environmental
benefits, reliability, and cost, treatment by constructed
wetlands was selected as the most cost-effective approach for
compliance with the new permit limitations.
The use of constructed wetlands to remove impurities in
wastewater and to consistently achieve treatment levels that
Post-aeration is essential for compliance
meet permit requirements was an emerging technology in
with the effluent standard for dissolved
1985. To assist with funding their new system, the town
applied for and was awarded a $610,000 U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) Innovative/Alternative Technology grant for its wetland project. This
additional funding, coupled with low construction and maintenance costs associated with the wetland
system, reduced the financial impact of the upgrade on the community and provided it with a system that
would require only slightly more maintenance than the existing stabilization pond.
System Description
As designed, the Fort Deposit
wetland treatment system includes
the following main components:
An 8.9-acre aerated pond
Two 7.5-acre constructed
wetland cells
A 0.1-acre post-aeration
The town's existing stabilization
pond was modified to provide more
effective pre-treatment. The
modifications included relocating
the influent and effluent points and
The Fort Deposit constructed wetland treatment system uses an aerated
adding floating mechanical aerators.
lagoon for pretreatment followed by two parallel wetland cells.
Seven acres of the pond were
aerated, leaving the remaining area
to serve as a settling basin. These modifications improve 5-day biochemical oxygen demand (BOD5) and
ammonia nitrogen (NH3-N) removal efficiency, reduce organic and solids loading to the wetland cells,
and provide additional flexibility in the overall treatment process.
The wetland cells are configured side by side. Each cell covers 7.5 acres and has an aspect ratio (length to
width) of 4.6:1. The cell floors are slightly sloped for easy draining during maintenance. Although most
of the 15 acres of wetland cells are less than 2 feet deep, each cell has three "deep zones," which are 4
feet deep and about 20 feet wide. The deep zones remain free of rooted marsh vegetation, thus allowing
effluent to be redistributed through the system and providing atmospheric aeration. The deeper water in
these zones also furnishes year-round habitat for aquatic life, particularly mosquito fish and wetland
The parallel operation of the two wetland cells gives the town the ability to direct all flow through a
single cell during wetland resting and maintenance periods. Moreover, the rate of flow to each cell can be
varied to allow flexibility in operations and to aid in testing or research.
The treated effluent enters a post-aeration pond after passing through the wetland cells. This system
component is used to meet the effluent dissolved oxygen limits specified in the permit. This 75,000gallon earthen pond is equipped with a floating mechanical aerator. Final effluent flow rate from the postaeration pond is continuously measured by a Parshall flume.
Operations and Management
In the Fort Deposit
wetland system,
wastewater is treated by
the naturally occurring
bacteria and fungi that
colonize the sediments on
the bottom of the cells
and the stems and leaves
Outlet weir structures allow water level
of the wetland vegetation
control for adjustment of hydraulic
below the water level.
retention time.
These microorganisms
help transform and remove organic matter and nutrients that
might otherwise degrade adjacent surface waters.
The vegetation in the two wetland cells was selected to simulate
a natural wetland and included an initial planting of 68,000
cattail and bulrush plants.
Influent from the aerated pond is distributed to the cells by pipes
with 1-inch holes drilled at 10-foot intervals.
Influent distribution to the wetland cells is
enhanced by perforated pipes on a rip-rap
slope across the width of the wetland
This method of
distributing influent
starts the flow through the treatment system and reduces the
buildup of solids at the head of the wetland cells.
The system is designed so that the effluent takes up to 30 days
to flow through the wetland cells. The actual retention time
varies seasonally to account for changes in the reaction rate of
microorganisms in the cells. Because the microorganisms react
more quickly at higher temperatures, the retention time can be
decreased during the summer and still provide the required
contact time for effective removal of impurities. Conversely,
during the winter's colder temperatures, the reaction rate of the
microorganisms is lower and the retention time is increased by
raising water levels.
Aluminum stop logs, located in three outlet structures along the
width of each wetland cell, control cell water depth and
promote the flow of effluent through the treatment system.
Dense stands of submerged cattail stems
and leaves serve as growth media for
microorganisms that feed on impurities in
the influent. The natural transfer of
atomospheric oxygen to these microbes is
essential in removing organic matter and
ammonia from the wastewater.
After treatment by the wetland cells, effluent is conveyed to the
post-aeration pond, where it receives supplemental aeration
from a floating aerator.
Deep zones in the wetlands provide open water for
ducks and wading birds, enhance flow distribution
in the wetland cells, serve as a sump for settling
solids, and provide additional hydraulic residence
time in the wetland cells.
Construction of the cells began in June 1989, with
planting starting during May 1990. By August 1990,
the vegetation provided almost complete cover, and
operation of the wetland cells began. Since then, with
only one exception for NH3, the Fort Deposit
constructed wetland treatment system has consistently
achieved permit compliance and has caught the
attention of others seeking a low cost, dependable
natural treatment system. Because of its outstanding
contribution to water resource conservation, the Fort
Deposit system received several awards including the
Alabama 1991 Governor's Conservation Achievement
Award, the Alabama Engineering Excellence Award,
and the Grand Award from the American Consulting
Engineers Council.
In Out In Out
1990August 102 5 137 10
September 27 8 101 18
October 30 3 168 18
November 27 3 127 10
December 15 4 71 9
1991January 20 5 52 10
February 13 4 18 4
26 7 40 8
22 10 97 15
21 9 52 20
29 10 72 25
33 7 69 10
56 7 183 7
September 24 4 87 12
October 30 8 125 18
November 32 4 106 7
December 33 12 64 16
1992January 39 4 83 19
February 22 4 32 4
34 4 58 5
31 4 119 3
Wetland effluent BOD5 and total suspended solids
(TSS) are consistenly in compliance with permit limits
despite variable inflow quality to the wetland cells.
Total Kjeldahl nitrogen (TKN) is mineralized in the
wetland cells to NH3 and then nitrified to achieve the
low discharge limits.
Ancillary Benefits
In addition to improving the quality of the effluent discharged to
the receiving stream, the creation of the Fort Deposit constructed
wetland treatment system has significantly increased wildlife.
This new habitat provides cover and food for various types of
wetland-dependent vertebrate and invertebrate life including a
variety of ducks and wading birds and their prey.
As a result of the wetland's success and the desire of others to
adopt similar technology, the town is receiving visitors from
other areas of the state and the nation.
Fort Deposit
Wetland Design Criteria
Average Daily Flow 0.24 mgd
Influent Quality
40 mg/L
100 mg/L
. TN
20 mg/L
. NH3-N
10 mg/L
Effluent Criteria
. BOD5
10(18)a mg/L
30 mg/L
. NH3-N
2(5)a mg/L
. pH
6-9 units
. Lagoon
10 acres
. Wetland Cells (2) 7.5 acres each
( )a winter limits December-April
The Fort Deposit wetlands continue to
diversify as new plant species colonize the
The Waterworks and Sewer Board of the Town of Fort Deposit
Henry Crenshaw, Chairman
Leo Goldsmith, Board Member
W.O. Ward, Board Member
David Edwards, Manager
Consulting Engineers
Dennis A. Sandretto,
Project Manager
Robert L. Knight,
CH2M HILL Project
Environmental Scientist
Alabama Department of Environmental Management
Truman Green,
Chief, Municipal Branch,
Water Division
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Robert Freeman,
Municipal Grants Program,
Region IV
This brochure was prepared by CH2M HILL for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Note: This information is provided for reference purposes only.
Although the information provided here was accurate and current
when first created, it is now outdated.
Disclaimer: The information in this website is entirely drawn from a 1993 publication, and has not
been updated since the original publication date. Users are cautioned that information reported at that
time may have become outdated.
West Jackson Co., MS: Constructed Wetland
Treatment System Case History
System Description
Operations and Management
Ancillary Benefits
The West Jackson County Constructed Wetland Treatment System (CWTS) was built in two phases
between 1990 and 1991 to provide additional effluent treatment and disposal capacity for the Mississippi
Gulf Coast Regional Wastewater Authority's (MGCRWA) regional land treatment facility. Located north
of Ocean Springs, Mississippi, the West Jackson County constructed wetlands consist of three parallel
treatment systems that cover 56 acres.
The land treatment facility was originally designed to treat an annual average daily flow of 1.6 million
gallons per day (mgd). Initially, this capacity was sufficient to treat the wastewater produced within the
service area, which is primarily from household sources. However, following heavy rainfall events,
hydraulic capacity of the land treatment facility was exceeded, and excess flow was bypassed directly
into Costapia Bayou. Wetlands were constructed to increase the site's overall treatment capacity to 2.6
mgd and to eliminate this periodic bypass.
Spray irrigation is used for effluent treatment and disposal at West Jackson County
during dry weather.
System Description
As designed, the West Jackson County Natural Land Treatment System includes the following main
a 75-acre lagoon/storage facility
a 380-acre land application system
three constructed wetland treatment systems, CWTS1, CWTS2, and CWTS3, with a combined
area of 56 acres
a 0.2-acre post-aeration pond
Wastewater is conveyed to the regional land treatment facility by a pressurized force main. Initial
treatment is provided as the effluent moves through the three cells of the lagoon, which remove grit and
settleable solids and reduce suspended and dissolved organic materials. The effluent flows by gravity to
the distribution pump station where debris is removed by two traveling screens. The effluent is then
pumped to the distribution system.
The partially treated effluent is applied to crops on two sites: a 245-acre southern site, located on
Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge lands, and a 170-acre northern site, located on
MGCRWA-owned land. Permanent big-gun sprinklers are used to apply the effluent. Underdrains on the
land treatment fields transfer excess percolate to wetland ponds on the Refuge that provide nesting
habitat for the endangered sandhill cranes. These birds have also benefited from this project through their
use of the spray fields as feeding habitat.
Alternatively, the effluent can be pumped to the 22-acre CWTS1 or be gravity fed to the 34-acre CWTS2
and CWTS3 sites. CWTS1 consists of two cells that operate in series. Effluent from Cell 1A flows over
eight adjustable weirs into Cell 1B. From there, Cell 1B effluent flows into an open collection ditch
where it flows by gravity to the post-aeration pond north of CWTS2.
CWTS2 and CWTS3 are two separate, parallel treatment trains that operate in series. CWTS2 has three
cells and CWTS3 has two cells. CWTS2 and CWTS3 are directly downgradient from the lagoon;
therefore, influent flows by gravity at a constant rate up to 1.0 mgd. After being measured, the influent is
split between the two treatment trains by a concrete flow splitter. Approximately 65 percent of the flow
goes to CWTS2, and the rest to CWTS3, resulting in a uniform loading per acre to the treatment trains
even though they are different sizes.
After treatment in the three CWTS, all wetland outflows are combined in the effluent collection ditch and
conveyed to the post-aeration pond, which is equipped with two floating aerators. The post-aeration pond
effluent passes through a Parshall flume for flow measurement, then through the outfall pipe where it is
discharged into Costapia Bayou.
Operations and Management
Constructed wetland systems can provide a high level of wastewater treatment with low operation and maintenance
requirements and low energy costs. In the West Jackson County
CWTS, wastewater is treated by the naturally occurring bacteria
and fungi that colonize the sediments on the bottom of the cells
as well as the stems and leaves of the vegetation below the
water's surface. These microbes help transform and remove
organic compounds and nutrients that might otherwise result in
pollution of adjacent surface waters.
The bottoms of the CWTS cells are slightly sloped for easy
draining during maintenance. Each wetland cell has three or
more "deep zones," which are 5 feet deep and about 20 feet
wide. The deep zones remain free of rooted marsh vegetation,
allowing them to redistribute effluent through the system and
provide atmospheric aeration. The deeper water in these zones
furnishes year-round habitat for aquatic life, particularly
mosquito fish and wetland-dependent birds such as waterfowl.
Cattails are the primary wetland species
used for water quality treatment.
Operation of the West Jackson County CWTS is based on shallow, overland flow conditions in the first
half of the wetland cells. Water depth increases to a maximum of about 1 foot at the downstream end of
the cells. This operational strategy takes advantage of the fact that higher dissolved oxygen (DO) occurs
in shallow, higher velocity areas of the wetland cells.
The West Jackson County CWTS was initially planted with cattail and bulrush plants. The CWTS also
has been naturally colonized by 43 other wetland plant species, providing a high level of biological
Influent from the pretreatment lagoon is distributed to the wetland cells by pipes with 2-inch holes drilled
at 10-foot intervals. This method of distributing influent begins the flow through the treatment system
and is critical for effective use of the CWTS for water quality treatment.
The effluent flows through the cells for up to 12 days to provide a high quality effluent. To account for
seasonal changes in the reaction rate of microorganisms in the cells, the retention time is varied by
changing water depths. Because the microorganisms react more quickly at higher temperatures, the
retention time can be decreased during the summer and still provide the required contact time for
effective treatment. Conversely, during the winter's colder temperatures, the reaction rate of the
microorganisms is lower; therefore, the retention time is increased by raising water levels. Deep water
zones provide effective redistribution of water flows along the length of the wetland cells. Stainless steel
outflow weirs control cell water depth and promote the flow of effluent through the treatment system.
After it is treated in the CWTS, effluent is conveyed to the post-aeration pond, where the flow rate and
water quality are measured before final discharge.
Post-aeration is essential for consistent compliance with the dissolved
oxygen permit limit of 6.0 mg/l.
West Jackson County
Constructed Wetland Design Criteria
Wetland Design Flow
Influent Quality
.......BOD 5
....... TN
Effluent Criteria
.......Fecal coliforms
Areas (acres)
1.6 mgd
45 mg/L
12.5 mg/L (167 lb/d)
10 (13)a mg/L
30 mg/L
2 mg/L
6-8.5 units
6 mg/L
2200 col/100ml
Cell A
Cell B
Cell A
Cell B
Cell C
Cell A
Cell B
Construction of Phase I of the CWTS
began in February 1990. The earthwork
and planting were completed in July 1990,
and startup and flows to this phase began in
August 1990. Plant cover was fully
established in Phase I by October 1990.
Construction of Phase II began in June
1990 and was completed about 8 months
later. Influent flows to this phase began in
October 1990 and planting was completed
in April 1991. Plant cover was fully
established in Phase II by June 1991.
Water quality measurements made since
June 1991 following complete plant
establishment indicate that the West
Jackson County constructed wetlands will
effectively reduce BOD5 and TSS
concentrations to less than 8 mg/L. These
reductions occur in spite of variable BOD5
and TSS inflow concentrations.
One of the key goals of the West Jackson
County CWTS is ammonia nitrogen (NH3N) reduction. Performance of the CWTS
has been variable to date, with 3 out of 12
months having outflow NH3-N levels
above the limit. High outflow NH3-N
concentrations have been associated with either high TKN loadings (over 3 pounds per acre per day) or
with high flows (over 2 mgd). Operational control of peak flows, TKN loading, and water level
adjustment are currently being used to optimize this wetland system's nitrogen removal potential.
a() December-April,
BOD5 = Five-day biochemical oxygen demand,
TN = Total nitrogen,
TSS = Total suspended solids,
NH3-N = Ammonia nitrogen,
DO = Dissolved oxygen
Water Quality Measurements
Month BOD5 TSS
28 9 40 15
13 5 41 15
August 23 4 49 10
September19 2.5 35 5
October 27 4 35 4.5
November46 3 36 4
December 39 4 29 7
1992January 23 4 17 8
February 19 5 12 4
19 5 16 5
28 4 18 4
24 4.5 31 6.5
BOD5 outflow concentrations have remained below 5 mg/L since vegetation colonization was
completed in June 1991. TSS outflow concentrations have settled to less than 8 mg/L since
September 1991. NH3 outflow concentration is dependent on the mass loading of TN and has
remained below 2 mg/L as long as TN loading is less than 167 lb/d (3 lb/ac/d).
Ancillary Benefits
In addition to improving the quality of the effluent discharged to the receiving stream, the creation of the
West Jackson County CWTS has resulted in significant wildlife benefits. This new wetland habitat
provides food and cover for various types of wetland dependent vertebrate and invertebrate life. The
aquatic invertebrate populations throughout the wetlands provide food for fish and birds.
The 45 wetland plant species identified to date, combined with open water zones and shallow edge areas,
have resulted in a diversity of wildlife habitats and high populations of wild-life species. Sixty-two bird
species were identified in or around the wetlands during 1991. About 37 of these species are considered
to be wetland-dependent. Bird populations during the winter, spring, and fall seasons are dominated by
ducks, sora rails, swamp sparrows, and wading birds. Summer bird population studies indicate the
presence of at least 7 nesting bird species and a total of 30 species in and around the wetlands.
Winter bird populations include ducks, rails, sparrows, coots,
herons, egrets, and many other wetland species.
Mississippi Gulf Coast Regional Wastewater Authority
Curt Miller, General Manager
Donald Scharr, Senior Engineer
Linwood Tanner, Chief Operator
Consulting Engineers
Clay Sykes,
CH2M HILL Project Manager
Robert Knight,
Project Environmental Scientist
Carl Easton,
CH2M HILL Resident Engineer
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Bob Freeman,
Municipal Grants Program,
Region IV
This brochure was prepared by CH2M HILL for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Note: This information is provided for reference purposes only.
Although the information provided here was accurate and current
when first created, it is now outdated.
Disclaimer: The information in this website is entirely drawn from a 1993 publication, and has not
been updated since the original publication date. Users are cautioned that information reported at that
time may have become outdated.
Hillsboro, OR - Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve
Wetlands Water Source
Putting the Polish on Wetlands for Water
Quality Management
The Dynamics of a Real-World Experiment
Enhancement for Wildlife
Education, Research and Passive Recreation
Working together for water quality, wildlife habitat, education and passive recreation.
At the south edge of
Hillsboro, Oregon, lies the
damp, tranquil sanctuary of
the Jackson Bottom
Wetlands Preserve. Nearly
650 acres of low-lying
floodplain on the edge of
the Tualatin River, about
80 percent of the area is
classified as wetlands.
Early mapmakers
dismissed the damp bottomlands as a “mirey swamp” suitable only for dredging, draining, and farming.
Over the years, agricultural and sewage disposal practices created a highly degraded landscape of limited
value for wildlife use, dominated by introduced grasses.
Since 1979, the Jackson Bottom Steering Committee has been working
together on an innovative project aimed at changing those conditions
and transforming this "mirey swamp" into a wildlife and water quality
"living laboratory." The Steering Committee, made up of a unique
alliance of economic interests, environmental groups and public
agencies, spent the first 10 years on efforts directed primarily toward
improving the area's wildlife habitat and passive recreation values.
In 1989, the coalition broadened its efforts and began investigating the
use of natural and constructed wetland systems for water quality
management as part of the Unified Sewerage Agency's effort to improve
water quality in the Tualatin River.
At the Jackson Bottom Wetlands, the Steering Committee has a unique opportunity to manage the
wetland's multiple goals. Jackson Bottom provides a chance to increase the diversity of resident and
transient wildlife, improve water quality, provide rich research and educational experiences, offer passive
and non-consumptive forms of recreation, and attract tourists in an area of rapidly expanding urban
The 1989 Jackson Bottom Concept Master Plan clearly outlined the main goals of the Jackson Bottom
Wetlands Preserve.
Enhancement for Wildlife:
Attract a more diverse wildlife
population by expanding and
restoring the preserve to
provide food and shelter to a
variety of birds and animals.
Water Quality Management:
Develop the Jackson Bottom
Experimental Wetland to
investigate the feasibility of
using wetlands to “polish”
effluent from a secondary wastewater treatment plant for the
removal of phosphorus and nitrogen before discharging to the
water quality-limited Tualatin River.
Passive Recreation: Provide access to areas of the wetland and
the Tualatin River for hiking, bird watching, angling and other
passive natural resource-associated activities.
Education and Research: Encourage educational use through interpretive signs and displays,
development of educational materials for schools and groups, providing site tours and assisting
researchers with research projects.
The Jackson Bottom Steering Committee
City of Hillsboro
Unified Sewerage Agency (USA)
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
Greater Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce
Washington County Soil and Water Conservation District
Portland Audubon Society
Friends of Jackson Bottom
Oregon Graduate Institute
Washington County Education Service District
The Wetlands Conservancy
Portland Bureau of Environmental Services
Pacific University
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Wetlands Water Source
Historically, the damp landscape of Jackson Bottom owes its source of water to the regular flooding of
the Tualatin River. The flooding creates the bottomland wetlands which make up the majority of Jackson
Today, water from regular winter flood is
supplemented in the summer by secondarily treated
effluent from a nearby Unified Sewerage Agency
treatment plant. This cleaned wastewater helps to
maintain the restored wildlife habitat. In return, the
wetlands filter the effluent before it's returned to the
Since 1979, enhancement projects have created and
restored several types of wetlands once typical in the
basin. The additional wetland types include deep and
shallow ponds, wet meadows, riparian wetlands and
fresh-water marshes. Edging the east side are also
forested wetlands and upland habitat.
Putting the Polish on Wetlands for Water Quality Management
Wetlands, ponds and lagoons have long played a role in wastewater treatment. In many areas, partially
treated wastewater is filtered through wetlands for suspended solids (SS) and biochemical oxygen
demand (BOD) removal.
The Jackson Bottom Experimental Wetland (JBEW) is taking this process one step further. Using
secondarily treated effluent from the Unified Sewerage Agency's (USA) Hillsboro Wastewater Treatment
Plant, USA's researchers are investigating the use of wetlands to “polish” the wastewater for removal of
phosphorus and nitrogen. These nutrients are abundant in the effluent of conventional secondary
treatment plants. This experimental program is part of USA“s comprehensive effort to reduce loads of
phosphorus and nitrogen entering the water quality-limited Tualatin River.
Built in the summer of 1988 with operation beginning in 1989, the JBEW occupies about 15 acres on the
eastern edge of the Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve. The Experimental Wetland is actually a series of
17 parallel cells, each built to contain effluent for varying amounts of time, with different soil types and
different vegetation patterns. Since July 1989, testing has been conducted to measure the success rates of
the soils and vegetation to "polish" the effluent.
Jackson Bottom
Experimental Wetland
Design and Operational
Cell Design Criteria; 15.6 Acre
Wetland (17 Parallel Cells)
Size, Capacity Total
18.3 to 22.4 ft .
1250 to 1280 ft .
46 percent at 1 ft
54 percent at 3 .
22,000 to 30,600 430,600 sq.
sq. ft
0.5 to 0.7 acres 9.9 acres
Water Level0.5 to 2.75 ft
254,000 to
4.8 mil gal.
427,000 gal
Cattail (Typha
Sago pondweed
..... Cove
5.4 acres
..... Wapato
6.2 acres
silty loam
..... Labish
3.4 acres
mucky clay
JBEW Operational
1989 1990 1991
108 118
Operational Period
2.8 1.6 2.6
30 19 24
Detention Time days
5-10 5-27 4-12
Mass Loading Rates
.......Phosphorus kg/ha/da5.2 3.4 2.4
lb/ac/da 4.6 3.0 2.1
kg/ha/da14.9 7.7 11.0
lb/ac/da 13.2 6.9 9.8
After three years of testing and extended research on JBEW, interesting results have surfaced . The
Experimental Wetland is improving the quality of the effluent—it is lower in both phosphorus and
nitrogen when it leaves the cells. Research has shown, although plants serve important functions in the
filtering, the soils have proved to be the main elements in binding up the phosphorus, thereby preventing
it from reaching the nearby Tualatin River.
Water quality is the focus of the JBEW, but education and wildlife have also benefited from this
innovative project. The construction of the wetlands has provided food, nesting and rich habitat for many
wetland species. The Experimental Wetland has also provided valuable educational opportunities for
teachers, students and researchers from schools and universities throughout the region.
As research continues to determine how to best meet the state's water quality standards, the Jackson
Bottom Wetlands Preserve serves as a model for improving water quality and managing multiple goals.
JBEW Outflow Data, Three
Year Average
Biochemical Oxygen
Demand (mg/L)
Chemical Oxygen
Demand (mg/L)
Alkalinity (mg/L)
Total Solids (mg/L)
Total Dissolved Solids
Total Suspended Solids
Ammonia-N (mg/L)
Total Kjeldahl Nitrogen11.9
N (mg/L)
Nitrate/Nitrite-N (mg/L) 7.3
Total Phosphorus
Soluble Ortho
Phosphorus-N (mg/L)
Chloride (mg/L)
Enterococcus (#/100 ml)3
Chlorophyll a (ug/L)
Groundwater Monitoring
Shallow Wells Within JBEW
Water Std
0.39 0.04 0.02
102 63 49
7.2 6.4 6.6
The Dynamics of a Real-World Experiment
Gathering data from a dynamic, realworld experiment presents challenges.
Variables that can easily be controlled
in a lab, may be unpredictable in a
dynamic process.
JBEW researchers have worked to
carefully control the variables within
their reach, yet remain flexible enough
to adjust for changes in a dynamic
system. Among the impacts that have
affected the JBEW are:
Non-native vegetation. Planted vegetation (cattails, sago pondweed) struggled to compete with
the non-native plants (reed canary grass, Lemna, Azola) that dominate much of Jackson Bottom.
Phosphate detergent ban.In 1991, a region-wide phosphate detergent ban dramatically reduced
the concentration of phosphorus in USA's effluent. As a result, the amount of phosphorus entering
JBEW dropped as did the percent removal.
Plant operations. In 1991, the Hillsboro Treatment Plant was no longer able to operate in
nitrification mode due to a 25 percent increase in service area. This resulted in higher ammonia
and lower nitrate effluent entering JBEW.
Enhancement for Wildlife
Jackson Bottom is part of a larger Tualatin River wildlife/wetland
corridor. This rich corridor provides essential stop-over feeding and
resting spots for migrating waterfowl traveling the Pacific Flyway. It
is also an important habitat for other species of wildlife. Much of
this habitat has been lost to agriculture and development. But with
projects like the Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve, crucial links in
this increasingly fragmented ecosystem are being reconnected,
enhanced and protected.
Though degraded by past human practices, Jackson Bottom is
coming alive with a newly developed diversity thanks to the
dedicated efforts of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the
Friends of Jackson Bottom, Ducks Unlimited and other groups.
What was once a flat meadow of exotic reed canary grass, with little
feeding or nesting opportunities for native species of wildlife, is now
being transformed into a complex patchwork of wetlands and upland
habitat. The wildlife ponds and marshes created using recycled wastewater are bordered by cattails, reeds
and rushes, native willows, dogwood, ash and elderberry. This increased diversity of plants provides food
and shelter for migratory waterfowl, shorebirds and other wetland wildlife. Resident populations now
include Canada geese, many species of ducks, rails, herons, osprey, bald eagles, nesting red tailed hawks,
harriers, and several owl species. Larger mammals include rare sightings of deer, elk, mink, beaver,
coyote and fox.
Until the habitat has sufficiently recovered, nesting sites are supplemented with floating goose platforms
and boxes for swallows, bats, wood ducks and kestrels. The enhancement projects offer the opportunity
to become involved with wildlife agencies and provide rich habitat for wildlife.
Education, Research and Passive Recreation
From early morning walks in the thick morning fog to
sophisticated research by soil scientists, there are many
opportunities to enjoy and learn from this natural resource
without harming it.
Research, education and passive recreation activities are a
major component of the 1989 Jackson Bottom Concept
Master Plan. Research efforts conducted by the Unified
Sewerage Agency, the Oregon Graduate Institute and other
regional colleges and universities are providing answers
and posing new questions about ecosystems and their role
in water quality management.
Education is a top priority, too. Spearheaded by the
Wetland Coordinator and Friends of Jackson Bottom,
students and teachers are learning about this astonishing
natural system through tours and field work. The Friends
group has developed wetlands curriculum and sponsors a
variety of events year-round. In 1992, a state grant enabled
Jackson Bottom to hire a part-time Wetlands Educator to
coordinate a pilot educational program.
Trails, viewsites and viewing shelters offer visitors a glimpse into the workings of this rich ecosystem.
The Kingfisher Marsh Interpretive Trail, designed and built by the Friends group, offers visitors a mile
long walk through wetland and upland habitat along the rarely seen Tualatin River. Future plans call for
more trails and improved river access.
For information on the Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve and the Jackson Bottom Experimental
Wetlands, please contact:
Jackson Bottom
Wetlands Coordinator
City of Hillsboro
123West Main Street
Hillsboro, OR 97123
(503) 681-6206
Unified Sewerage
155 North First Street
Hillsboro, OR 97124
(503) 648-8621
This publication was funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Special thanks to the Unified
Sewerage Agency of Washington County, City of Hillsboro and Linda Newberry for their contributions.
Nest photo on page 156 and family photo on page 161 courtesy of Friends of Jackson Bottom. The
salamander photo on page 157 courtesy of Audubon Society of Portland, Oregon.
Note: This information is provided for reference purposes only.
Although the information provided here was accurate and current
when first created, it is now outdated.
Disclaimer: The information in this website is entirely drawn from a 1993 publication, and has not
been updated since the original publication date. Users are cautioned that information reported at that
time may have become outdated.
Des Plaines River, IL - The Des Plains River
Wetlands Project: Wetlands for River Water Quality
System Description
System Performance
Water Quality Responses
Vegetation Responses
Wildlife Use
Research Groups
System Description
The Des Plaines River Wetlands Demonstration
Project is designed to produce the criteria necessary
for rebuilding our river systems through the use of
wetlands and for developing management programs
for the continued operation of the new structures.
The research program is assessing wetland
functions through large-scale experimentation,
controlled manipulation of flow rates and water
depths, testing of soil conditions, and the
employment of a wide variety of native plant
Four wetlands have been constructed near
Wadsworth, Illinois, for purposes of river water
quality improvement. The river drains an
agricultural and urban watershed, and carries a nonpoint source contaminant load of sediment,
nutrients and agricultural chemicals. The site is
Wetlands EW3 and EW4 are encircled by access roads,
located 35 miles north of Chicago. It incorporates
and bordered by US Highway 41 (bottom) and
2.8 miles of the upper Des Plaines River and 450
Wadsworth Road (left). Flow enters EW3 from the left,
acres of riparian land. The river flows south,
and enters EW4 from the bottom. Both discharge to a
draining 200 square miles in southern Wisconsin
swale (top right), which is connected to the Des Plaines
and northeastern Illinois. Eighty percent of the
River. On this aerial infrared photo, water is black and
watershed is agricultural and 20 percent urban. The
cattails are dark red.
river is polluted with non-point source contaminants
from a variety of land use activities, and point source contaminants from small domestic treatment plants.
In support of previous agricultural uses, low-lying portions of the site were drained by means of tiles.
Past uses of the site included pasture and a Christmas tree farm which resulted in the demise of most of
the original wetlands and associated fauna and flora.
Water is pumped from the river to the wetlands, from a point just south of Wadsworth Road. This energy
intensive alternative was necessary because of site constraints, and because of the desire to explore a
wide range of hydraulic conditions. Gravity diversion would be a preferred alternative in most
applications of this technology. Water leaving the wetlands returns to the river via grassy swales.
The river is a "good old muddy midwestern stream." Shown here at
average flow, it regularly floods a large amount of bottom land. In the
summer of 1988, a severe drought caused it to dry to a disconnected
string of pools.
The Des Plaines River enters the site from the north, passing
under the Wadsworth Road bridge. It is relatively wide and
shallow under normal flow conditions—100 feet wide and
about 2 feet deep. This reach exhibits channel stability,
primarily because of the low energy state of the river. Stream
velocities average less than 1 foot per second. The gradient is
1.2 feet per mile.
About 15% of the variable stream flow is pumped to the
wetlands, and allowed to return from the wetlands to the river
through control structures followed by vegetated channels.
Native wetland plants have been established, ranging from
cattail, bulrushes, water lilies, and arrowhead to duckweed and
algae. Pumping began in the 1989, and has continued during
the ensuing spring, summer and fall periods. The experimental
design provides for different hydraulic loading rates, ranging
from 2 to 24 inches per week. Intensive wetland research began in late summer 1989, and continues to
The hydrology of the wetland complex has been studied extensively. Groundwater investigations showed
a relatively complex local flow pattern, with some groundwater interactions with the river. Wetland EW5
leaks to groundwater, as does wetland EW5 to a minor extent. For WY 1990 (October 1989-September
1990), precipitation and evapotranspiration were equal.
Pumping occurred for all weeks in 1990, but was
discontinued in winter in subsequent years. The pump
is run on weekdays, for a prescheduled period. In WY
1990, it was run 10.5% of the time. Outflow from the
wetlands is controlled by weirs. Thus the hydrologic
regime is cyclic, with increasing water levels and flows
during the few daily hours of pumping, followed by a
lowering of water levels and a slowing of flows during
the off hours.
Pumping creates a fountain effect at the inlet to each
Annual Average Water budget Compnents,
WY1990 (cm/day)
Surface Inflow
River enters the site from the north, passing under the Wadsworth Road
bridge. It is relatively wide and shallow under normal flow conditions 100
feet wide and about 2 feet deep. This reach exhibits channel stability,
primarily because of the low energy state of the river. Stream velocities
average less than 1 foot per second. The gradient is 1.2 feet per mile.
System Performance
The wetland internal flow patterns are not ideal in any
sense of the word. The nominal detention times in the
wetlands range from one to three weeks under moderate
to high flow conditions. Some of the pumped water
moves quickly toward the outlet, and reaches it in about
one days time. Other portions of the pumped water are
trapped in the litter and floc near the wetland bottom. Still
other portions are slowed by plant clumps, or blown off
course by the wind. The net effect is that some water
takes three times as long as the average to find its way out
of the wetland.
Tracer studies have been run at Des Plaines, using lithium
chloride as the tracer material. A sudden dump of
dissolved lithium is made into the wetland inflow. The
outflow is then analyzed for the lithium, which appears at
varying concentrations and at various times after the
dump. These tests have established that the degree of mixing within the wetlands is higher than expected. But surprisingly,
there is not a great deal of difference between wetlands, even though they differ in shape.
Suspended Solids In and Out of
the Des Plaines Wetlands (mg/l)
The primary water quality problem of the river is associated with
turbidity. With a mean concentration of 59 parts per million, over 5,000
tons of suspended solids enter the site per year via the Des Plaines River
and Mill Creek. Seventy-five percent of these solids are inorganic and
95 percent are less than 63 microns in size. Sediment removal
efficiencies ranged from 86-100% for the four cells during summer, and
from 38-95% during winter.
% Removal
A fish story developed in 1990. The solids in the
wetland effluents were steadily increasing with each
passing week. The source of the problem was found:
a large number of carp were growing up in the wetlands. These fish foraged in the wetland sediments, causing resuspension of
solids. They entered as fry in the pumped water, and grew to 8-10 inches over the first two years of the project. The solution
was to draw down the wetland water levels, in winter 1990-91, and freeze out the carp. Solids removal returned to the
previous high levels of efficiency.
Carp rooted up sediments and impaired sediment
removal efficiency. They were frozen out and
Water Quality Responses
Other observed river water quality problems
Suspended Solids In and Out of
included violations of the state water quality
the Des Plaines Wetlands (mg/l)
standards for iron, copper, and fecal coliforms.
These pollutants are found only occasionally, and
not in dangerously high concentrations. Although
not detected in amounts exceeding the federal Food .
and Drug Administration's criteria, dieldrin, DDT
and PCBs have been found in fish flesh samples. FA89 0.052 0.018 0.013 0.014 0.018
WI89 0.073 0.053 0.030 0.058 0.024
DDT, DDE and PCBs were also found in low
SP90 0.057 0.044 0.015 0.017 0.023
concentrations in the river borne sediments. The
old pesticides are pervasive everywhere else in the SU90 0.117 0.038 0.055 0.035 0.062
environment, and so will be in these wetlands. The FA90 0.131 0.024 0.007 0.017 0.011
river bears a significant nutrient load, as evidenced SP91 0.089 0.003 0.002 0.001 0.002
by nitrate and phosphorus. These fertilizers peak SU91 0.119 0.010 0.010 0.010 0.009
seasonally, corresponding to runoff timing and
AVG 0.091 0.027 0.019 0.022 0.021
land use practices within the watershed.
Agricultural practices within the basin produce
% Removal
pollution with atrazine, at concentrations which
peak in excess of the federal drinking water standard. According to the results of benthic surveys, the
stream is classified as semi-polluted.
Phosphorus removal efficiencies average 65–80%. However, efficiency is lower in winter and higher in
summer. That is partly because the riverine concentrations of phosphorus are very low in winter, and
partly because biological processes slow in the cold temperatures. Winter runoff in the watershed is
overland, over frozen soils or ice and snow. The result is low phosphorus in the river in winter.
Most phosphorus enters the wetlands associated with mineral suspended solids. These solids settle
quickly, and may not freely exchange their phosphorus with the wetland waters. In addition, there is a
large biotic cycle of growth, death and decomposition at work, which leaves a residual of organic
sedimentary material. The deposition from this cycle exceeds the deposition of incoming river solids by a
wide margin. Both processes immobilize phosphorus in these wetlands. During the early years,
phosphorus is also tied up in the new biomass associated with these developing ecosystems.
There are a variety of nitrogen forms in the river
water. About 0.6 mg/l of organic nitrogen enter the
wetlands, and the same amount leaves. Very low
ammonium nitrogen concentrations are found in
Inlet EW3 EW4 EW5 EW6
both river and wetland waters: about 0.05 mg/l.
Nitrate varies seasonally in the river, in response to
FA89 2.46
urban and agricultural practices. High spring and
WI89 2.15
fall concentrations are echoed by similar variations
in the nitrate content of the wetland effluent
waters. However, in the warm seasons, a
considerable amount of the incoming nitrate is
removed, presumably due to denitrification. This
microbially mediated process appears to be more
efficient in the wetlands with lower hydraulic
loading rate, which is equivalent to increased detention time since depths are comparable. Thus the
overall effect of the wetlands is to control the nitrate in the water when sufficient contact time is
Nitrate Nitrogen Reduction, (mg/l)
Atrazine, a triazine herbicide, exists in many streams in the upper midwestern part of the United States,
including the Des Plaines River, due to use patterns in the watershed. The atrazine-wetland interaction is
very complex, including removal from the area by convection in the water, loss of chemical identity by
hydrolysis to hydroxytriazine and dealkylation, and sorption on wetland sediments and litter. Atrazine
transport, sorption and identity loss were studied at the site, and in accompanying laboratory work.
Sorption was effective for soils and sediments, but the more organic materials, such as litter, showed a
stronger affinity for atrazine than the mineral base soils of the wetland cells at Des Plaines.
Atrazine was found to degrade on those sediments according to a first order rate law. Therefore, outflows
from the Des Plaines wetland cells contained reduced amounts of atrazine compared to the river water
inputs. During 1991, atrazine peaked in the river due to two rain events. Only about 25% of the incoming
atrazine was removed in wetland cell EW3, but 95% was removed in wetland cell EW4. The explanation
is that the detention time in EW4 is longer than in EW3.
Vegetation Responses
Efforts at vegetation establishment were initially thwarted by the
extreme drought conditions of 1988. The planting of white water
lily (Nymphea odorata) showed small success, and American
water lotus (Nelumbo lutea) did not survive.
The development of the macrophyte plant communities has been
monitored from project startup. Sixteen 2m x 2m permanent
quadrats were established in each wetland cell. Data were
acquired on species composition and biomass for all plants in
each quadrat. Plants were individually measured, and a
correlation between dry weight and leaf size was developed. Thus
biomass could be determined non-destructively. There was an
overall increase in species as volunteer wetland vegetation
replaced the terrestrial vegetation of pre-pumping.
Number of Species of Fourteen species were observed
in 1990 that were not present in
Wetland Plants
1989, and ten species from 1989
did not reappear; these later
being mostly upland species.
Water clarity is generally excellent at
the wetland outflow.
The first year of inundation
caused the death of many
upland species, such as cottonwood (Populus deltoides). The growing
seasons of 1989, 1990 and 1991 all displayed an increase in the amount
of cattail (Typha spp.). Productivity increased from 200-400 dry grams
per square meter in 1989 to 600-800 in 1990. The growing season of 1990 produced extensive blooms of
macrophytic algae, predominantly Cladaphora.
Wildlife Use
Bird populations have grown much larger than in the pre-wetlands period for the site. For migratory
waterfowl, there has been a 500% increase in the number of species, and a 4500% increase in the number
of individuals from 1985 to 1990. Forty-seven species of birds nested on the site in 1990, a 27% increase
over preproject numbers.
The fall 1990 bird survey turned up a number of interesting species, including the state endangered piedbilled grebe and black-crowned night heron, and also the great egret, American bittern, and the sharpshinned hawk. The state-endangered yellow-headed blackbird and least bittern nest successfully at the
Muskrats have moved in, and constructed both dwelling houses and feeding platforms. And, beaver are
now resident in the wetlands. They chewed off quadrat corner posts—most of the 256 posts initially
placed. They attempted to dam the wetland EW3 outflow nearly every night in 1992.
Support for the project has been provided by a large number of both private and governmental agencies.
Contributions have been both in-kind and financial.
Abbott Laboratories
AMOCO Foundation
Annexter Brothers
Atlantic Richfield Foundation
Badger Meter Co.
Borg-Warner Foundation
Campanella & Sons, Inc.
Caterpillar Foundation
Chauncey and Marion Deering-McCormick Foundation
Commonwealth Edison Company
Exxon Company USA
Garden Guild (Winnetka)
Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelly
Hartz Construction Co., Inc.
Illinois Department of Energy
and Natural Resources
International Minerals and
Chemical Corporation
J. I. Case
Kelso-Burnett Co.
Lake County Forest Preserve District
Land and Lakes Company
Material Service Corporation
Midcon Corporation
Morton Arboretum
National Terminals Corporation
Olson Oil Company
Open Lands Project
Prince Charitable Trust
R. R. Donnelly & Sons
Sidney G. Haskins
Sudix Foundation
The Brunswick Foundation
The Indevco Group
The Joyce Foundation
The Munson Foundation
U. S. E. P. A.
U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
USX Foundation, Inc.
ISPE Outstanding Engineering Achievement of 1991: The Des Plaines River
Wetlands Demonstration Project
Ecological Society of America: Special Recognition Award, 1993
Research Groups
Project research has been conducted by several
College of Lake County
Wetlands Research, Inc.
Iowa State University
M. C. Herp Surveys
North Dakota State University
Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission
Northern Illinois University
Northwestern University
The Illinois State Water Survey
The Illinois Institute of Technology
The Illinois State Geological Survey
The Morton Arboretum
The Ohio State University
The University of Michigan
Western Illinois University
For the project bibliography, project reports or other
information, contact the not-for-profit coordinating
Wetlands Research, Inc.
53 West Jackson Boulevard
Chicago, Illinois 60604
Phone 312-922-0777
Fax 312-922-1823
Blue horizon marker particles just after
placement. As sediments accumulate, these
marker particules become buried. The amount of
overlying sediment may then be determined at
later times.
Concerned Citizen Questionaire
In order for the Municipal Technology Branch to be effective in meeting your needs, we need to understand
what your needs are and how effectively we are meeting them. Please take a few minutes to tell us if this
document was helpful in meeting your needs, and what other needs you have concerning wastewater
treatment, water use efficiency, or reuse.
Indicate how you are best described:
[ ] concerned citizen
[ ] consultant
[ ] other
[ ] local official
[ ] state official
[ ] Federal official
[ ] researcher
[ ] student
[ ] teacher
Name (optional): ____________________________________________
Phone No. (optional) : ________________________________________
Email Address (optional):______________________________________
[ ] This document is what I was looking for.
[ ] I would like a workshop/seminar based on this document.
[ ] I had trouble [ ] finding [ ] ordering [ ] receiving this document.
[ ] The document was especially helpful in the following ways:
[ ] I was unable to meet my need with this document. What I really need is:
[ ] I found the following things in this document which I believe are wrong:
[ ] What other types of technical assistance do you need?
We thanks you for helping us serve you better. To return this questionaire, print this page out and fax it to
202-260-0116 or send it to:
Municipal Technology Branch (4204)
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
401 M Street SW
Washington, DC 20460
Fly UP