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  • Hedda Jarhall

The vital role of wastewater treatment in people’s health

Every day each person in Florida generates about 100 gallons of domestic wastewater. According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, it is necessary to treat and manage all wastewater to safeguard human health and the environment. The local community serves an important role in getting educated about water wealth to ensure the health of people and communities.

DEP serves as the lead agency for environmental management and stewardship, focusing on protecting air, water and land. They aim to create a strong partnership community and safeguard Florida’s natural resources. The safeguarding involves the treatment of wastewater to protect public health by ensuring water quality.

One facility that manages wastewater treatment in South Florida is the Loxahatchee River District located in North Palm Beach County. Their mission is to foster a sense of environmental stewardship for the Loxahatchee River’s diverse watershed with quality education programs, exhibits and meaningful events.

Jocelyn O’Neill, an environmental education manager at the River Center in Loxahatchee River District, said the facility offers school field trips, family programs and outdoor activities for the public to visit and get educated about the facility and its work.

“Our outdoor programs are our most impactful programs because they offer people the opportunity to engage with nature while learning about the wastewater treatment process and our efforts to protect the Loxahatchee River from pollution,” O’Neill said.

The wastewater treatment plant tour is one of the outdoor programs offered where people can learn about how the facility cleans and filters the 9 million gallons of water they receive every day.

“Throughout the tour, we guide participants through the different stages of the wastewater treatment process. We show them how we treat the water to take away sand, bacteria and other microorganisms,” O’Neill explained.

The River District started with the tours six years ago to educate the community about the importance of wastewater treatment. O’Neill stressed that every step in wastewater treatment is crucial to protect the community’s health and keep the environment healthy.

“It is important that the community understands why we do what we do and how they can help our process. What they do at home affects how effective we are at protecting people and our environment,” O’Neill said.

O’Neill emphasized the importance of preventing fats, oils and grease from entering drains as a significant action individuals can take. Scraping off plates into the garbage before rinsing or washing them in the sink helps to make sure the pipes do not get clogged.

“It is also a benefit to the people because it reduces the amount of bad stuff that is clogged up inside people’s houses as well,” O’Neill said.

Wastewater treatment prevents dangerous pollutants from entering our natural system. Loxahatchee River District and other facilities prevent pollution as well as diseases through their programs.

O’Neill said the River District recycles about 95% of the wastewater they receive which protects natural water resources where the community’s drinking water comes from.

The South Florida Water Management District is a governmental organization that also manages and protects water resources by removing excess nutrients from South Florida’s ecosystem.

Jason Schultz, public information coordinator at the South Florida Water Management District, said the SFWMD makes significant infrastructure adaptation investments to safeguard and restore South Florida’s water resources and ecosystems.

“We work to ensure the region’s water resources and ecosystems resiliency to protect communities and natural resources,” Schultz said.

In SFWMD’s resiliency and water supply plan, emphasis is placed on promoting water conservation measures aimed to prevent saltwater intrusion. The plan also involves recycling water to protect the health of the community members.

O’Neill said it is important that the management is carefully made to ensure that people do not get diseases from unhealthy water.

By Hedda Jarhall

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