New sewage plant saves money, protects environment

ROSEBURG, Ore. -- A new green water treatment system is up and running in Roseburg, and officials say the all-natural way they are treating waste water is going to help the South Umpqua River.

The Zenor-Nuener Memorial Natural Treatment System is a project that was years in the making.

It was about 15 years ago that the Roseburg Sanitary Authority started buying land for the project, and it's finally up and running.

Here's how it works:

  • The system takes treated waste water and sends it through an energy disapater, which is like a fountain.
  • The water floats through a wetlands area.
  • From the wetlands, the water makes it's way into a holding pond.
  • The water is pumped from the pond, which is used to irrigate the surrounding 340 acres.

Three million gallons of water a day are used to water the 340 acre wetland.

About a million and a half gallons of that water make it back to the river, according to Ron Thames, general manager of the sanitary authority.

Officials say the process removes nitrogen and phosphorous, elements that help algea grow, which can be harmful to fish.

An added bonus of the project: the low cost.

To retrofit the existing plant in a conventional way would have cost about $100 million.

The natural treatment system cost under $9 million.

"We were able to save 90 cents on the dollar," Thames said. "We were all very excited about that, that keeps the rate low here in the Roseburg area."

The process is now up and running, and will run every year from May through October.