Athena, OR, Apr 22, 2011 -- The City of Athena will celebrate Earth Day with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at their new, wetland-based water treatment installation. Students from the local high school will join city officials at the event to help plant trees and install bat boxes around the area, which is quickly becoming an oasis for migratory birds and other wildlife.
“We’re seeing more swans, geese and ducks here,” said Public Works Director Kim King, “and now, the local high school is even using the area as an outdoor classroom.”
The new wetland areas were installed to provide an extra level of purification in conjunction with the city’s wastewater treatment system. As treated water moves through the series of four elevated wetlands, physical, chemical and biological processes remove remaining contaminants.
“Our wetlands are still new and the vegetation is not yet fully established,” King explained, “but established wetlands, like the ones we are developing, demonstrate a wonderful ability to remove nitrates, bacteria, sediment, and other common constituents of municipal wastewater.”
“This is an environmentally friendly and cost-effective alternative to building a whole new treatment system,” said USDA Rural Development State Director Vicki Walker.
Through its Water and Waste Program, USDA Rural Development loaned the city nearly $1.6 million for the project’s construction. “Infrastructure projects like this are absolutely critical, but small towns often need assistance getting them going. That’s where USDA comes in. We help rural communities secure financing to get the work done.”
The City of Athena embarked on the project when they were faced with state regulations and needed to find an affordable and effective way to ensure water quality.
“With the wetland approach, we were able to turn a negative into a real positive thing for the community,” said City Council Chair Carol Speed.