UConn Unveils New $25 Million Water Reclamation Plant

Last week, officials from the University of Connecticut showed off the school?s new $25 million water reclamation facility, a key piece of a plan to solve water shortages that have plagued the institution and surrounding communities since?2005.

The plant came on line in May, said Tom Callahan, an associate vice president at UConn. The reclamation facility is providing up to 500,000 gallons of treated wastewater on high-demand days for a variety of uses, including operating UConn?s power plant, which uses as much as 450,000 gallons, Callahan?said.

?Typically, our highest usage days occur in August as our students begin to return to campus,? he said. During those peak times, UConn implements conservation measures that reduce the amount of water coming from well fields near the Fenton and Willimantic rivers, cutting the amount of water available to the school by about one-third. UConn put those conservation measures in place after the Fenton River, which runs near the Storrs campus, was pumped dry in 2005 because of increased water usage by the?school.

The reclamation plant allows the university to use treated non-potable water for things it had previously been using drinking water for, Callahan said. The plant uses microfiltration, reverse osmosis, and ultraviolet disinfection to clean the wastewater so it can be put into service for other?uses.

The reclamation plant processes about 230,000 gallons on an average day, according to school?officials.

?This project illustrates UConn?s strong commitment to the environment and is another way in which the University translates its policies into practice,? UConn President Susan Herbst said in a prepared statement. ?It?s a tangible example of our environmental stewardship, and one of the reasons UConn is consistently included in the ranks of the nation?s most ?green??universities.?

Daniel Esty, commissioner of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said in a statement that the school ?is helping to conserve valuable natural resources and is setting an example that will inspire students and serve as a model for others to?follow.?

Once the treated wastewater is used at the power plant, it is sent back to the reclamation facility for re-treatment, significantly reducing the university?s effluent discharge. In the future, reclaimed water from the facility may also be used for irrigation purposes, such as on athletic and recreational fields, school officials?said.

The school is responsible for providing water not only to meet the needs of the Storrs campus, but also for more than 100 users across parts of Mansfield including the Town Hall, E.O. Smith High School, and the emerging downtown Storrs Center. And plans call for construction of a technology park at UConn that would break ground in either 2015 or 2016, Callahan?said.

The reclamation plant began operating even as school officials and the town of Mansfield were in the final stages of evaluating proposals from the Connecticut Water Co., the Metropolitan District Commission and Windham Waterworks for piping more water into the area. UConn?s Board of Trustees could decide which of the proposals best suits the needs of the school and the town at its August meeting, Callahan?said.

Since 2005, UConn?s conservation efforts have cut the school?s potable water usage by 240,000 gallons a day, despite having a larger population and more buildings to?serve.

Information contained in this news update was taken from a report by Luther Turmelle and appeared in the New Haven Register?last week.

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