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March 21, 2014

Following the cycle of Norman's wastewater

NORMAN — Reuse of treated municipal wastewater (a.k.a. sewage)  is tough for some residents to wrap their heads around.

Maybe looking at it from the viewpoint of other organisms would help Oklahoma follow in the footsteps of other states and move forward on this issue. For certain species of microorganisms, Norman’s biosolids (what you flushed down the toilet this morning) are a veritable feast.

Since 1942, Norman’s sewer treatment plant has been located on 25 acres on Jenkins Avenue south of Highway 9. The plant has gone through a variety of name changes, reflecting the evolution of waste treatment through the decades.

Currently, Norman’s sewer plant is a Water Reclamation Facility because the wastewater it cleans is reclaimed for use.

“In earlier decades, they focused on what they were treating,” Utilities Director Ken Komiske said. “They were talking about sewage or pollution. The focus now is on the end product — reclaimed water that is used in the environment, in industry and businesses, and eventually for residential use.”

After treatment, Norman’s reclaimed wastewater is discharged into the Canadian River, which eventually runs to Lake Eufaula, where some of it is consumed by water customers in that area. The rest moves on to Robert S. Kerr Lake and then to the Mississippi River and eventually the Gulf of Mexico.

“Water is a never-ending cycle,” Komiske said. “It just keeps getting used and recycled.”

Raw sewage travels from all over Norman through the city’s sanitary sewer lines to arrive at the plant.

Plant Manager Steven Hardeman said preliminary treatment is where inorganic matter is removed from the sewage. That includes rags or trash that ended up in the system.

Hardeman, along with Superintendent Ryan Bart, described the process through which Norman’s wastewater is cleaned as primarily organic and environmentally friendly.

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