Medford, Oregon, like many other cities, grappled with the problem of treating sewage without harming fish due to the warm water released into the Rogue River by their wastewater treatment plant.
The EPA has rules and regulations about water temperature, but in the past they were difficult or expensive to adhere to. Medford came up with a marginally cheap fix to the problem: planting trees.
Water Online reports:
“Instead of spending millions on expensive machinery to cool the water to federal standards, the city of Medford tried something much simpler,” the Environmental Health News report said. “It bought credits that paid others to handle the tree planting, countering the utility’s continued warm-water discharges. Shady trees cool rivers, and the end goal is 10 to 15 miles of new native vegetation along the Rogue.”
Water-quality credit trading is on the rise in Oregon. Using credits to offset warm discharges is a new practice. “Supporters say it’s a win-win: wastewater plants save money, streams stay cool and the trees do other good things like provide habitat and suck up carbon,” the report said.
Joe Whitworth, president of the Freshwater Trust, which helped organize the effort, described the thinking that led to this plan: “We thought, what else is out there, what can we do different to enhance the entire watershed?””
The environmental advocates aren’t convinced that this solution is really benefitting the ecosystem, but it does take care of the wastewater plant’s responsibility.
Inframanage.com encourages ‘thinking outside the box’ in relation to resolving the many problems and issues associated with the management of infrastructure networks and facilities.
In many cases this can be a more cost-effective solution than traditional engineering design responses.
We will continue to highlight these examples to stimulate your thinking.
So, does the Medford solution really benefit the environment?
That question is only going to be answered after several years of careful monitoring, and no doubt – much more community discussion and debate.
It will be interesting to see how this type of wastewater infrastructure management solution stands the test of time.
In the interim, it is hard to see how planting more trees can be regarded as a bad result.
PHOTO CREDIT: D Coetzee via Flickr Creative Commons License