Wetland Wastewater Treatment Facility Helps Protect the Great Lakes

Project Summary: The Kettle Moraine Lutheran High School replaced an old septic tank with an engineered wetland to filter their wastewater, thereby removing excess nutrients from the water supply and creating a habitat for local wildlife.

Project Name: High School Wastewater Wetland

Location: Jackson, Wisconsin

Description: Wetland environments are known as natural filtration systems, removing or capturing nutrients to prevent algal blooms downstream. The Kettle Moraine Lutheran High School has harnessed this power of wetland biology to naturally filter the

A windmill and solar panel stand in the constructed wetland. The solar panel provides power to run monitoring equipment, while the windmill aerates the aerobic bacteria tank that processes the effluent. Photo courtesy of Tom Mellon.

A windmill and solar panel stand in the constructed wetland. The solar panel provides power to run monitoring equipment, while the windmill aerates the aerobic bacteria tank that processes the effluent. Photo courtesy of Tom Mellon.

wastewater from the school. The engineered wetland system uses a mix of bacteria populations, a solar powered nitrate pump, and windmill for aeration, as well as wildflower and prairie grasses to digest and filter the nutrients from human waste. This process makes the water safe by the time it enters the ground water. After flowing through the school’s wetland, the water makes its way through the Jackson Marsh, then the Milwaukee River, and finally into Lake Michigan. Besides being an effective way of preventing excess nutrients from entering the watershed, the engineered wetland is used by the teachers as a hands- on lesson about the water cycle and water quality. Students of all ages—not just those attending the high school—are educated about the importance of wetland ecosystems and the roll they play in filtering water.

A close up of the line that carries oxygen generated by the windmill to the appropriate bacteria tank. Some of the wildflowers on site can also be seen in this photo. Photo courtesy of Tom Mellon.

A close up of the line that carries oxygen generated by the windmill to the appropriate bacteria tank. Some of the wildflowers on site can also be seen in this photo. Photo courtesy of Tom Mellon.

Approximate Cost of the Project: $20,000

Resource Challenges Addressed: Excess nutrients in the water cycle, lack of habitat for wildlife, old septic tank in need of replacement

Key Partners (Public and Private): Kettle Moraine Lutheran High School, Toyota TAPESTRY, and Wisconsin Focus on Energy

Types of Jobs Created: Construction workers, truck drivers, heavy equipment operators, biology teachers, environmental engineers, and general laborers

Results and Accomplishments: By using an engineered wetland to treat wastewater, the Kettle Moraine Lutheran High School has improved water quality and increased community understanding of the importance of wetland ecosystems. The wetland has also created a space on campus for waterfowl, amphibians, and even beavers to live. In 2012, they upgraded their system by adding a vertical flow wetland, which allows already treated water to percolate through sand and plants to be further cleaned. About 10 percent of this water is redirected for further treatment, decreasing the likelihood that excess nutrients will find their way into the Great Lakes. The filtration system works so well that in about 25 years the water filtered by this wetland would be drinkable.

Website: http://www.kmlhs.org/home/environmental- initiatives/waste-water-treatment

Originally Published: August 30, 2013

One Response to Wetland Wastewater Treatment Facility Helps Protect the Great Lakes

  1. Paul Flansburg says:

    This is a success on so many levels! Not only are the benefits long lasting as they continue to be realized, but it educates children about rational concerns that go far deeper than the sound bites we’ve all grown accustomed to (like “throw it away? Where’s away?) . Maybe, by the time these kids graduate, someone will have to tell them that they are environmentalists.

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