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Friday, December 5, 2008

Philip Morris uses man-made wetlands to filter wastewater from Virginia plant

Found this interesting..From the AP:

It started with the gnats. Then came the dragonflies and mice….Eventually the birds, foxes, turtles and deer stumbled upon a man-made wetlands that naturally filters wastewater from the nation's biggest tobacco maker…..The nearly 50 acres of wetlands are part of a $7 million science experiment, using more than 150,000 plants to filter wastewater discharged by Philip Morris USA's Park 500 facility, which reconstitutes loose tobacco into sheets in a similar process to making paper for use in its products……But the project along the James River that became fully operational over the summer is creating a habitat for many animal species — a stark contrast from the industrial city of steel buildings and towers less than a mile away…."It is kind of neat — this whole cycle that happens," said Ty Murray, director of environmental compliance for Philip Morris' parent company, Altria Group Inc. "One group moves in, it creates food for another group. They come in and devour, and the whole system just keeps repeating itself."….Wastewater first flowed into the wetlands in March and more than 15 species of plants like bullrush and duck potato were installed shortly afterward, followed by more than 70 varieties of animals that come and go with the seasons…..Nearly 1.8 million gallons of treated wastewater a day moves through a series of ponds with native trees and shrubs. The plant life and microbes absorb mineral nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous before the water reaches the river…….The whole process takes about 14 days beyond the traditional methods of water treatment done before making it to the wetlands, said Tony Nobinger, the facility's wastewater manager…..Excessive levels of the nutrients in the water can cause algae blooms and have other adverse impacts on aquatic life, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Algae depletes oxygen levels in the water, killing fish…..The manufacturing plant has long been a source of frustration for environmental groups such as the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which previously challenged state permits that allow the maker of Marlboro and other top cigarette brands to dump wastewater into the river. The foundation, which settled with the company in March, claimed the permit authorizes the discharge of excessive levels of nitrogen and phosphorus into the river…..The company's current permit with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality allows for the discharge of 2,650 pounds of phosphorus and 139,000 pounds of nitrogen per year. Last year, Philip Morris discharged 4,400 pounds of phosphorus and 72,200 pounds of nitrogen; below permitted levels for that period…..The company said that from 2001 to 2006 it voluntarily reduced its total nitrogen discharge into the river by 46 percent. The new system is estimated to reduce nitrogen levels by an additional 13 percent and phosphorus levels by 34 percent, based on initial studies done by the company and contractors for the project….."Right now we're very pleased with the performance," Murray said, adding that actual numbers won't be available until a full year of testing can be completed…..Chuck Epes, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Virginia spokesman, said the group's main concern is making sure the discharge continues to comply with state permits……"However they do it is fine as long as at the end of the day, at the end of the pipe, whatever comes from that plant meets water quality standards and there is some accountability," Epes said….The idea for the project came about when Murray read a magazine article about a Midwestern beer company using a similar system to successfully treat wastewater from its facilities….."It's a pretty neat experiment," said Gerard Seeley Jr., director of the state DEQ's Richmond region. "We're real interested in seeing industries and municipalities that have these major discharges find ways to treat their effluence as a resource rather than as a liability."….Seeley said the project is among a small number nationwide in which wetlands are used to treat industrial wastewater.

Read Here:,0,3853463.story

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