In primary treatment, the water is separated from biosolids. Biosolids are then treated by anaerobic bacteria, which digests those solids and removes many contaminants.
“Bugs in that particular system eat the pathogens and neutralize the biosolids,” Hardeman said.
Those biosolids are turned into a cake-like product, which is eventually hauled away and spread on farmland as fertilizer. However, the end result resembles coffee grounds more than cake.
Ironically, when there is drought, that product may be too richly concentrated for some fields and then is diluted with water that has been reclaimed and cleaned through the liquid portion of the system.
Once separated from biosolids, the water goes on to secondary treatment, where organisms clean it and remove the pathogens.
Once that’s done, the water goes through four secondary clarifiers: large tanks where the organisms and any remaining solids in the water are removed. The water then moves on to a measuring device, where it is monitored before being discharged into the Canadian River.
It takes about 13 hours for wastewater to go through the system and come out cleaner and more environmentally friendly.
“We do more than just control pollution,” Hardeman said of the process at the plant. “We actually reclaim that water from our usage and put it back into nature better than we found it.”
Staff at the plant maintain an aquarium of fresh water fish using the same effluent that is discharged into the Canadian. The cichlids, tiger barbs, bayla sharks, algae eaters and a small vanilla lobster thrive in the water.
Administrative Tech Danielle Robins will take the fish to Norman’s Earth Day Celebrations from noon to 5 p.m. April 27 at Reaves Park to allow the public to see how well the fish thrive in Norman’s treated wastewater.
Now, a bill is making its way through the Oklahoma House of Representatives that would facilitate reuse of the reclaimed water Norman and other Oklahoma municipalities discharge into a variety of rivers and streams.