Some information about Clayton County Water Authority’s Natural Treatment Systems:
Clayton County is divided by the subcontinental divide and lies in the upper part of the Flint River Basin (which flows to the Gulf of Mexico) and the Ocmulgee River Basin (which flows to the Atlantic Ocean). The limited water resources available in the county have driven Clayton County Water Authority (CCWA) Management and Board of Directors to think outside the box and implement innovative approaches to water management as far back as the late 1950s. In the 1970s, CCWA selected a spray irrigation Land Application System (LAS) as the preferred wastewater treatment and disposal method and constructed what at the time was the largest municipal spray irrigation system for treated wastewater in the United States. CCWA operated the LAS for almost 30 years.
During the development of CCWA’s 2000 Master Plan, constructed treatment wetlands were identified as the most reliable, sustainable option for both treatment and water supply enhancement. Constructed treatment wetlands have proven to require much less land, energy, and maintenance than the irrigation systems while continuing CCWA’s tradition of utilizing natural systems for water reclamation.
Natural Treatment Process
Constructed wetlands treatment is a natural process involving plants, soils and the bacteria naturally occurring within the aquatic ecosystem all playing a part in removing residual nutrients. The level of treatment achieved through this process provides a finished product that is in accordance with all US EPA and Georgia EPD regulations.
In response to the need for increased wastewater treatment capacity, CCWA partnered with CH2M HILL to develop an Indirect Potable Reuse System consisting of advanced wastewater treatment followed by constructed wetlands treatment before discharging into the water supply reservoirs.
CCWA has developed a truly sustainable water supply through the use of constructed treatment wetlands to recharge its water sources. During Georgia’s second worst drought on record, Clayton County’s raw water reserves remained at 77% of capacity or higher.
E.L. Huie Jr. Constructed Treatment Wetlands
From 2005 until 2010, the E.L. Huie Site was converted from the aging Land Application System (LAS) into a 532 acre constructed treatment wetlands site. The project was completed in four phases and was funded through a combination of municipal bonds, a GEFA loan and designated funds from CCWA. The site has 263 wetted acres and is currently designed to treat up to 17.4 million gallons per day (MGD), which is almost all of the current daily flow from the W.B. Casey Water Reclamation Facility.
The transition from irrigation to wetlands has also resulted in significant energy savings due to reduced pumping. Rather than maintaining numerous valves, pumps and miles of irrigation pipes, routine maintenance now consists primarily of vegetation management. This fundamental change has enabled CCWA to decrease the maintenance staff through attrition. The operation used to require 100 to 150 acres of land for 1 MGD of treatment by irrigation, but now only needs 20 to 25 acres for wetlands treatment.
Important Bird & Wildlife Habitat
Another benefit of the constructed treatment wetlands, as well as the nearby reservoirs, holding ponds and Newman Wetlands Center, is the enhancement of green space.
The variety of these aquatic eco-systems offer sanctuary for a wide array of life forms. Wildlife abounds in these areas, providing nesting and migration areas for huge numbers of songbirds, waterfowl, raptors, turkey and quail, as well as other surprising water birds, such as egrets, ibis, rails, bitterns and shorebirds. Mammals such as deer, fox, bobcat and coyote are drawn from our forested lands to our lakes, streams and wetlands. The many species of fish and aquatic insects found here, in addition to birds, bats and amphibians, provide a crucial role in the natural control of mosquitoes and other pest species.
Newman Wetlands Center
The Melvin L. Newman Wetlands Center (NWC) is the focal point of CCWA’s community education efforts. Since opening in 1995, the Wetlands Center has hosted more than 243,000 visitors, including students of all ages, from every state in the U.S. and many countries around the globe. This 32-acre site includes a ½-mile wetlands trail and an exhibit/learning area, a 50-seat auditorium, offices, a conference facility, and picnic areas. The entire facility is handicapped accessible.
In addition to over 130 bird species, CCWA staff has observed beaver, river otter, fox, raccoon, muskrat, deer, coyote, bobcat, wild turkey, opossum, mink, and many species of reptiles, insects, and amphibians.