The City of Alachua's wastewater treatment facility is a dual train facility that utilizes an active sludge treatment process. The original unit and effluent disposal system was constructed in 1976. It was designed to treat 0.4 million gallons per day (mgd).
A plant expansion occurred in 1994 bringing the treatment capacity to its current level of 0.937 mgd. Wastewater treatment provided by the Paul O'Dea Wastewater Treatment Facility includes preliminary treatment, biological treatment, filtration, and disinfection. Preliminary treatment serves to protect equipment in the treatment facility by using bar screens to remove objects such as sticks and rags from the wastewater when it enters the treatment facility.
After preliminary treatment, wastewater enters basins where it is introduced to microorganisms for biological treatment. Biological treatment reduces the amount of carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus present in wastewater to levels that are acceptable for discharge into our environment. After biological treatment, wastewater is filtered with sand to remove solids and disinfected with chlorine to kill harmful bacteria and viruses that are present in wastewater.
A by-product of the wastewater treatment process is over accumulated microorganisms from the biological treatment process. During the degradation of pollutants, microorganisms reproduce resulting in increase microorganism populations. In order to maintain a healthy population of microorganisms, operations staff periodically removes some of the microorganisms by pumping them to basins where they are stabilized and concentrated. After a period of 45 to 60 days, the microorganisms are sufficiently stabilized to be safely introduced to the environment. The City of Alachua applies stabilized microorganisms, known as biosolids, to land as a soil amendment and fertilizer. The process is monitored to ensure compliance with State regulations related to land application of biosolids. Hay is grown and harvested from the City's biosolids disposal site.
After wastewater is chlorinated, it can be safely discharged to the environment. The City of Alachua disposes of its highly treated wastewater, which is also known as reclaimed water, by land applying at a local municipal golf course or at an 80 acre of spray field the City owns.
Reclaimed water is wastewater that has been treated and filtered resulting in high quality water suitable for lawn irrigation and many other purposes such as air conditioner, cooling towers, fire fighting and decorative fountains, to name a few. Reclaimed water plays an important role in the stewardship of Florida's water resources. Irrigating with reclaimed water reduces the need to dispose of treated wastewater to surface or ground waters and the demand for potable water to serve this purpose.
Although reclaimed water has been treated, disinfected and is safe for incidental human contact, it is not "drinking water" and has not been approved for human consumption and direct contact. The use of reclaimed water to fill swimming pools, hot tubs, spas, wading pools is therefore prohibited. Reclaimed water cannot be distributed for public use unless it meets strict treatment requirements.
The City of Alachua's wastewater treatment facility pumps an average of 100,000 gallons of highly treated reclaimed water to the Plantation Oaks Golf Course located in the Turkey Creek subdivision each day where it is used for turf irrigation. The balance of the treated wastewater is land applied to the City's land application site.