Wetland Wastewater Treatment Facility
Helps Protect the Great Lakes
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.
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 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.
Resource Challenges Addressed
- Excess nutrients in the water cycle
- Lack of habitat for wildlife
- Old septic tank in need of replacement
HIGH SCHOOL WASTEWATER WETLAND
Location: Jackson, Wis.
Approximate cost: $20,000
Key partners: 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.