Using water once is not enough
by Tom Chillemi
Treated wastewater could be used for irrigation, which would help meet nutrient limits for discharge. However, current regulations make that difficult. That’s why the Middlesex County Board of Supervisors is asking state agencies to review and possibly change regulations to make using treated wastewater more feasible.
Known as water “reuse,” the idea has been employed in Florida and other states, explained Saluda District supervisor Pete Mansfield, who notes that applying the treated water to land would eliminate the discharge of nutrients into bodies of water.
Treated wastewater contains nutrients that are beneficial to plants, but are bad for aquatic life. Nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus in a body of water feed algae and cause “algae blooms,” which block sunlight penetration. When the algae die, their decomposition uses oxygen in the water to the detriment of aquatic life.
Nutrient reduction is difficult, very expensive, and a new wastewater treatment plant would be required to meet stringent regulations, said Jim Pyne, director of the Small Communities Division of the Hampton Roads Sanitation District (HRSD).
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