Wastewater to Wetlands Program
- A Natural Solution
the 24-mgd Iron Bridge Regional Water Reclamation Facility went on-line in
1981 to serve the cityís rapidly growing northeastern communities, the
plant was operating at nearly full capacity and had no opportunity to
increase its existing wasteload allocation. In fact, a consent decree was
issued to the city to reduce nitrogen concentrations in the effluent that
the plant was discharging into the sensitive Little Econlockhatchee River,
a tributary of the St. Johns River. Additional treatment of the wastewater
and an alternate method of disposal/reuse were necessary.
Studies identified the use of a wetland treatment as a viable solution.
At the time, there were no existing large-scale wetland treatment systems
to serve as an example for city environmental services staff consultants,
or state regulators. But with the cooperation of all parties, work began
on a 1,190-acre, created wetland to provide nutrient removal to 20 mgd of
advanced wastewater treatment effluent.
The site selected for creation of the Orlando Easterly Wetlands was
located on 1,650 acres in east Orange County, Florida, approximately two
miles west and southwest of the main channel of the St. Johns River.
Surveys performed in 1848 indicate that the site had once been a wet
prairie, with smaller areas consisting of hardwood swamps and hammocks.
During the early to mid-l900ís, the land was ditched and drained for
agricultural development. At the time of this project, the area had been
drained by a series of ditches and swales that discharged directly into
the St. Johns River. The land was used as improved pasture for cattle with
small hammocks and depressional wetland areas located on portions of the
pasture. The drain system had lowered the groundwater table and
transported runoff to the St. Johns River so that wetland vegetation could
no longer be sustained throughout the site.
The creation of a wetland treatment system allowed the city to meet its
treatment and disposal needs, reclaim a vital wetland, and create valuable
habitat for wildlife.
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