UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — More than a half century of research on the use of treated wastewater for irrigation and groundwater recharge will be the focus of a three-day conference hosted by Penn State April 5-7 at the Wyndham Garden hotel in Boalsburg.
The conference, “Wastewater Reuse: 50-plus Years of Research, Management, and Lessons Learned,” will highlight Penn State’s “Living Filter,” a year-round spray irrigation system that recycles the University’s treated effluent.
Discharging effluent from wastewater treatment plants to waterways such as streams and rivers is the most common practice in water-rich regions such as Pennsylvania. However, water reuse is an essential activity for clean water agencies in the future, conference organizers noted.
Penn State for nearly four decades has reclaimed all of its wastewater effluent for forest and crop irrigation and groundwater recharge through its Living Filter system. The Living Filter provides the following benefits:
— Eliminates the direct discharge of treated wastewater into streams and other water bodies.
— Enhances the treatment of the water as it slowly percolates through the soil.
— Naturally recharges the underlying aquifer.
— Helps to maintain base flows in streams such as Spring Creek without adverse thermal effects.
— Reduces the impacts of drought conditions.
— Improves the growth and yield of agricultural crops.
Conference sessions will cover nutrient management; emerging concerns such as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (often referred to as PFAS), pharmaceuticals, and antibiotic resistance; hydrogeology and aquifer recharge; soil health; land management; operational challenges; wastewater treatment; and other topics.
The last day of the conference will include a tour of the beneficial reuse system, including the Penn State Water Reclamation Facility, to see the construction upgrades, The Arboretum at Penn State to understand the watershed and stormwater related issues, and the Living Filter site itself. The tour will feature stops at the site’s monitoring wells, vernal pools, willow tree plantings, a soil test pit and other opportunities to engage with research activities at the site.
The conference will feature speakers from Penn State and other universities, state and federal government agencies, and private hydrogeology firms, who will discuss the history of adaptive management strategies used to meet environmental goals, address regulatory compliance and sustain community outreach.
The event is intended for utility managers, watershed planners, researchers, students, consultants and regulatory personnel engaged in innovative water resources management for the 21st century.
A discounted registration fee will be offered until Friday, April 1. More information and online registration is available on the conference website.
–Chuck Gill, Penn State University