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Domestic Wastewater to Wetlands Program
Orlando Easterly Wetlands - A Natural Solution


When 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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Last updated: September 21, 2011

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