Marshfield Wastewater Utility Provides Invaluable Service
An average of 3 million gallons of water flows through Marshfield Wastewater Utility every single day and during peak wet weather flow that number can reach upwards of 28 million gallons. The world’s supply of fresh water is used over and over again, and with the simplified role of wastewater being to collect and treat the water, the Utility’s goal is to return water to the environment in a matter suitable for reuse.
Since 1880, the City of Marshfield has taken an active role in maintaining the quality of the local environment by providing wastewater collection and treatment services to residents, continuing to improve its collection and treatment system to meet evolving state and federal regulations and a growing population.
Operating as a division of the Public Works department (because most of the collection system is located underneath the roads, any repairs to the pipes below ground will have a major impact on the roads above them), this coordinated effort combines resources and reduces costs to residents.
“Collecting wastewater from homes and businesses started in Marshfield in 1880 with the installation of the first sanitary mains and manholes,” said Sam Warp Jr., Wastewater Superintendent. “The first treatment started in 1923, with many additions and improvements since then.”
The last major upgrade occurred in 2000, with the construction of the current wastewater plant at 2601 E 34thstreet.
Part of Wastewater Utility’s mission is to treat the liquid wastewater generated by the residential, business, and industrial users of the sanitary sewer system in its facilities in order to remove the biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), the suspended solids, and the other contaminants which could be harmful to humans, animals, or the environment in general.
“After water is used in homes and business, it’s not in a condition that anyone cares to come in contact with,” said Warp. “Our job is to take the nutrients, organics, inorganics, etc. out of the water so we have little to no negative impact on the environment. Somebody always lives downstream and we need to protect them.”
One aspect of a third world country is lack of wastewater treatment, and Wastewater’s goal is to prevent the spread of diseases that are part of daily life in those areas.
With another part of Wastewater’s mission being to keep the public informed regarding the importance of the service for the health of their community, Warp notes several ways residents can ensure quality service.
“The biggest issue is the flushing of disposable wipes,” he said. “Just because they are disposable, doesn’t mean they are flushable. Disposable means to put in the trash and don’t reuse them.”
He explained that wipes plug the pumps and screens, meaning more money is spent and the costs passed onto consumers. When the staff pulls the wipes out, they are sent to the landfill anyway, so putting them in the trash saves everyone money.
Prescription drugs are another contaminant that residents contribute to wastewater. Any leftover or unused drugs should be returned to the police department or other drop-off sites in the community- never flushed down the drain.
Wastewater treatment is an all-natural process and the Utility manages all treatment and collection system facilities utilizing sustainable practices.
“We use naturally-occurring bacteria to eat the food that comes down to us. We do that by creating an environment that they like to thrive in. We use no chemicals so we have no impact on the downstream life. It’s much cheaper and we get far better treatment by using the natural bacteria,” said Warp. “On the flip side, that’s why nothing should be flushed that harms the bugs. Never flush antifreeze, waste oil, paint, household chemicals or any chemical you wouldn’t drink. If you don’t like it, the bugs won’t either.”
Because the Utility operates its facilities in equal to or greater than compliance with the limiting discharge parameters and rules set forth by the Federal regulatory agency (EPA) and State regulatory agency (DNR), there are several issues facing it in the future.
“There are some huge challenges coming with the new regulations from the EPA. These will probably cost millions of dollars to comply with,” said Warp. “We are in the forefront of the changes and will be working with area farmers to reduce the amount of phosphorus entering Mill Creek. There will be much more information on this in the coming months.”