Newberry OKs study on reusing wastewater


Published: Monday, January 29, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 29, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

Water used in toilets, showers and washing machines may get a second life in Newberry.

The city has approved a study looking into the use of reclaimed water as a way to protect the area's aquifer.

The two-month study, which costs $19,000, is looking at ways to pipe reclaimed water, which is sewage that has been treated, to new housing developments and businesses to use for irrigation rather than drinking water.

The study will explore the number of new housing developments being built versus the cost of running pipes to them.

It will also look into the water uses of city buildings, schools and businesses to see if they would benefit from reclaimed water.

Currently, Newberry uses spray-field irrigation, where the treated sewage, which has increased nitrates, is sprayed on a crop to act as fertilizer. The water then goes into the ground and makes its way back into the aquifer.

John Glanzer, mayor of Newberry, said the problem with the spray-field method is that the city only has 140 acres on which to spray the reclaimed water.

Newberry would need to buy about 100 acres to increase its water application rate. The cost of this, and the installation of piping, would cost $4 million to $5 million.

Instead of doing this, Newberry has decided to study what it calls a more environmentally responsible way to use the treated water.

"(The reclaimed water method) has a twofold advantage," Glanzer said. "It allows treated water to be spread out over much larger areas in the community and the high nitrate level makes it act as a fertilizer."

The reclaimed water method would also be more cost-effective, he said.

Instead of Newberry residents being charged the normal rate for water, which is $10.50 per thousand gallons, the reclaimed water would cost one-half or one-third less, Glanzer said.

"The real positive thing is that it is an environmentally responsible way to reduce the amount of water that has to be drawn out of the community," he said.

The reclaimed water system is considered so beneficial that various water management districts and the Alachua County Environmental Protection Advisory Committee are supporting the project, said Brent Heath, project manager at Jones Edmunds and Associates, the company in charge of conducting the study.

If the new method is approved, it would cost between $5 million and $5.5 million. The money would go toward the materials and labor required to establish the new system.

The Suwannee River Water Management District has a grant that will cover up to 75 percent of the cost.

New housing developments would be the only ones required to hook up to the water system if the plan is approved, Glanzer said.

"It is not our intention to force homeowners to hook into it," he said. "If the pipe runs right in front of their home and they want to hook up, there will be a nominal cost."

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