The Southeast Farm Wastewater Reuse Facility
Beginning in 1966, the City of Tallahassee became one of the few municipalities to experiment with using the treated effluent water to irrigate crops. It's worked so well that the system has been expanded several times since then, and Tallahassee currently recycles all of its effluent wastewater in this manner. The Southeast Farm, as it is known, is one of the advanced facilities of its type anywhere in the world.
However, as part of the City's commitment to using treated wastewater in innovative and environmentally sensitive ways, we have broken ground on the new Tram Road Reuse Facility. It is in addition to the City's $160 million plan to implement advanced wastewater treatment and other improvements to protect area groundwater and natural resources such as Wakulla Springs.
After the Thomas P. Smith and Lake Bradford plants treat the city's wastewater, it is then pumped through a 36-inch diameter pipe along an eight-and-a-half mile route to the Southeast Farm. A highly sophisticated computer system developed specifically for this project controls the thirteen huge center-pivot sprinkler systems and the distribution of water through them. Various crops such as canola, corn, soybeans, hay and sorghum can be grown year round on each of the thirteen spray fields for resale.
Put simply, the system amounts to a huge biological filtration system powered by the sun, aimed at removing excess nitrogen and phosphorus from the treated wastewater. The nutrients are removed from the water in four ways:
- Much of the nitrogen volatilizes into the atmosphere upon irrigation.
- As the crops absorb the water, the nutrients are utilized by the plants as a natural fertilizer to enhance their growth.
- Phosphorus not used by the crops is physically adsorbed onto the surface of soil particles.
- Naturally-occurring bacteria break down the remaining nitrogenous compounds in the water to use as a source of food to enhance their growth.
The water that isn't absorbed by the crops eventually filters down to the water table and into the Floridan Aquifer which flows towards the Gulf of Mexico. Dozens of monitoring wells throughout the site are used to check the quality of this water at various locations and depths.
The farm has won awards such as the 1994 Infrastructure Award (featured at the top of this page) from the American City & County Magazine, the 1995 U.S.E.P.A. Award for the Most Effective and Innovative Reclamation and Reuse Program, the 1997 David W. York Water Reuse Award, as well as being mentioned in numerous industry publications. The Southeast Farm has made an incredible impact on our future quality of life and has made the City of Tallahassee a trailblazer in environmental protection.
Request a tours of the Southeast Farm or other Water Utility facilities