Water, Water Everywhere … But Less Of It Every Day

“We want to ensure that the citizens and their children who use these fields fully understand what we’re doing and why,” said Christopher. “We want them to know what, if any, risks there are and also the risks if we don’t use this water. If the irrigation ban continues, the fields will deteriorate and we could have to close down seasons due to unsafe playing surfaces. We want to address their concerns up front, before we do anything.”

Assessing The Situation

The recreation staff used the Recreation Commission as the medium through which to initially communicate with the public on this topic. A public workshop was scheduled during the commission’s regularly scheduled monthly meeting on October 15. The workshop was publicized in local newspapers and on the city’s Web site, and the public was invited to attend. In addition, the recreation staff contacted youth associations who use the fields being considered for this water and invited their representatives. The recreation department called in two experts on the subject to participate in the workshop. Susan Lee represented the Peachtree City Water and Sewer Authority (WASA). As WASA’s operations division manager, she is responsible for production and distribution of urban reuse water. She presented a briefing on what reuse water is, and what it isn’t, as well as describing the process to produce it.

WASA is a separate entity from city government, although it is officially and financially a component unit. WASA maintains two wastewater treatment plants that process sewer water for the city of 35,000. One of those plants–the Line Creek Plant–was upgraded in 2004 to produce urban reuse water. A local nearby golf course has been irrigated since 2005 with that reuse water with no negative feedback.

Her list of what reuse water is included:

· High-quality, treated effluent from a wastewater treatment plant

· More reliable–both quantity and quality–than streams

· Less expensive than potable water

· In high demand in more water challenged regions

· A sustainable resource

As for what reuse water is not, she listed:

· Environmentally imposing

· Does not deplete limited natural resources

· “Grey water” or partially treated wastewater

· As expensive as potable water

· Subject to watering bans & drought conditions

· Widely available in Peachtree City–YET

Differing Opinions

Lee explained that upgrades to bring the Line Creek plant to reuse standards included adding state-of-the-art filtration, UV disinfection with triple redundancy to replace the old chlorine system, installation of an in-line turbidity and recording device, construction of a lined pond for reuse water storage and addition of an alarm system to shut the system down if problems occurred.

To address the question of how safe reuse water is for sports field irrigation, Lee quoted a 2005 study by the WaterReuse Foundation, entitled “Irrigation of Parks, Playgrounds and Schoolyards with Reclaimed Water: Extent and Safety.”

In part, the study stated, “…the irrigation of parks, playgrounds, athletic fields, and schoolyards with highly treated and disinfected reclaimed water is safe and does not present any known health risk to children or others who frequent those sites that are measurably different than risks associated with irrigation using potable water.”

The publication further states that “…secondary treatment, filtration and disinfection effectively eliminates pathogenic bacteria and helminths, and reduces enteric viruses to low or immeasurable levels. UV effectively inactivates bacteria, most viruses, and parasites…”

One meeting attendee, a retired biologist and local environmental watchdog, said his research indicated that there was not a totally effective means to ensure 100 percent destruction of viruses from waste water.

He indicated that much of his research had been online. He quoted one source as saying there would be very little removal of viruses through the reuse purification process.

Curtis Boswell, the other panelist, disagreed with that. Boswell is Georgia’s reuse water coordinator at the State Environmental Protection Division. He oversees all applications of reuse water in the state.

“That hasn’t been my experience in the research I’ve studied or in the cases I’ve been involved with,” Boswell told the audience. He went on to cite the eight pages of references in the 2005 WaterReuse Foundation’s publication that Lee had earlier mentioned.

“These are current studies by people from academia, the water reuse industry and the government,” he said. “None of them report any known illnesses that directly correlate with applications of reuse water.”

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