THREAT OF NUTRIENT LOSS: Wastewater treatment plants are improving to tackle nutrient runoff

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Nutrient loss is not just an agricultural problem.

Excess nutrients from the runoff of fertilizers used on suburban lawns and golf courses, as well as waste products from everyday use in our lives, can end up in our waterways, leaving behind toxins and harmful bacteria.

The state aims to reduce total nitrogen and phosphorus losses by 45%, with 15% nitrogen and 25% phosphorus reduced by 2025.

And local water treatment plants are part of the plan.

Rick Manner, executive director of the Urbana-Champaign Health District, explains that depending on the type of treatment plant, the degree to which nitrogen and phosphorus can be reduced varies. He said the levels can be reduced by 60% to 90%.

the UCSD is a sanitary sewage treatment facility that provides treatment to properties in Urbana, Champaign, the villages of Bondville and Savoy, the University of Illinois and surrounding areas. UCSD discharges approximately 22 million gallons per day and serves approximately 200,000 people. Sanitary sewers carry waste from inside the house to treatment plants.

Manner said that since sewers are more polluted and dirtier, it is not appropriate to return them directly to waterways.

That’s why our processing plant is there to process it to the level that makes it legal and appropriate to go into a stream,” Manner said.

After the removal process, Manner says insects” are cultivated which are a mixture of microbes and attach themselves to the particles and reproduce to consume the waste. The process takes about 12 hours. the bedbugs” prevent the growth of bacteria and other microbes when water is pumped from streams.

Water treatment facilities are regulated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and must obtain the necessary permits for their operation. Regulations established by the United States APE are issued based on the performance of the processing and control technologies.

The Illinois EPA-supervised Clean Water State Revolving Fund offers low-interest loans under the Water Pollution Control Loan Program. These loans can be used to improve the general operation and water quality of treatment plants.

Lending occurs on an annual cycle based on the state’s fiscal year that begins July 1 and ends June 30. Since funding is limited, projects with approved plans are scored and ranked to help prioritize which projects will receive loan program resources during the fiscal year.

According to the WPCLP 2021 Planned use planthe Illinois EPA had up to $700 million available.

Applicants must submit a project plan including a detailed description of the existing collection and treatment system, a project description explaining the need, rationale and benefits of the proposed project, and an estimate of the total project costs and building elements.

Applicants are required to complete a environmental checklist and certification form which provides consultation records from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the State Historic Preservation Office.

Once a plan is submitted, a project manager is assigned to help the loan applicant navigate the process. More information is available on the Illinois EPA website.

In March 2021, the DuPage County Northern Wastewater Treatment Plant, which serves parts of Itasca and Addison Village and surrounding areas in the northern part of the county, began construction after receiving a loan of approximately $10 million in the program’s 2021 fiscal year.

Stan Spera, financial administrator for DuPage Public Works, said the payback period would be about 20 years and that of DuPage County’s three wastewater treatment facilities, the Northern Plant was need major and major upgrades.

Improvements will be made to the site piping and raw sewage pumping and filtering structure, as well as improving the overall operations structure and water treatment process in hopes of improve water quality for residents and businesses.

To ensure water is safe before being pumped from sewage treatment facilities, larger and denser materials, such as plastic, rocks or glass, are removed first. Smaller materials such as food bits or feces are then removed by a gravity separation process in which the solids settle to the bottom of the tank and are removed from the water vapor.

The DuPage Forest Preserve has found ways to deal with harmful blooms of cyanobacteria or blue-green algae. Blue-green algae form when heavy rains pick up and wash nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, into the water.

Although blue-green algae are a natural part of the aquatic environment and can be found in small to moderate amounts, in warm water they can reproduce rapidly, causing thick layers on the surface.

Dan Grigas, ecologist at the DuPage Forest Preserve, said buffer zones are used along the lake to create a break for the overflow. which helps deposit nutrients and particulate solids before they can enter the [body of water].”

Buffer zones are made up of native grasses and plants that help trap excess water and allow sediment and nutrients to settle before reaching the water.

A diffused aeration system has been installed in Lake Herrick that helps circulate water and increases oxygen, which prevents the formation and growth of algae colonies. The aeration system also increases the aerobic respiration of dead plant and animal matter instead of allowing it to be absorbed by algae species.

It continually circulates water, creating a good, healthy, oxygen-rich environment all year round,” Grigas said. So basically, [it’s] promote good ecological health throughout the year.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

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