Meeting Thursday on project to clean treated wastewater flowing into Ichetucknee


Visitors tube from the head springs of Ichetucknee Springs State Park in Fort White in this June 18, 2014 file photo.

Erica Brough/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Tuesday, July 8, 2014 at 1:28 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, July 8, 2014 at 1:28 p.m.

A $4.6 million project in Lake City is planned to reduce nitrogen pollution in the Ichetucknee River by converting a large area of the spray fields for the city’s wastewater treatment plant into artificial wetlands.

Those wetlands then will provide an additional layer of treatment for the treated liquid sewage from the wastewater plant before it flows into the aquifer and, within days, to the Ichetucknee’s head spring and the river about 10 miles away. The concept is similar to the one Gainesville used with its ongoing Paynes Prairie Preserve Sheetflow Restoration Project, Suwannee River Water Management District officials said.

Thursday evening in Lake City, there will be a public meeting to provide information and get feedback on the project. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. at the Columbia County School Board Administrative Complex, 372 W. Duval St. in Lake City.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is providing the bulk of the funding, $3.9 million, for the project, which is dubbed the Ichetucknee Springshed Water Quality Improvement project. The Suwannee River Water Management District is paying $400,000, Lake City $200,000 and Columbia County $100,000.

The Ichetucknee is a tributary of the Santa Fe River, and the project is one piece of a state plan to try and reduce the nutrient concentrations in the Santa Fe by 35 percent.

The wetlands project is expected to reduce the nitrates flowing to the Ichetucknee from the wastewater treatment plant by 85 percent.

Lake City has 342 acres of spray fields, and about 140 acres will be remain spray fields, said Dave Dickens, a project manager with the Suwannee district. Dickens said on the remaining areas of the spray fields, denitrification walls will be used to reduce the nitrate pollution flowing to the Ichetucknee. Those walls are typically trenches dug into the water table and then loaded with sawdust or another material that catches nitrates in the groundwater.

Construction is expected to start in late January 2015 and last until mid-September 2015.

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