For over 24 years the Orlando Easterly Wetlands (OEW) has been in continuous operation, polishing more than 126 billion gallons of reclaimed water. The reclaimed water is pumped through a 17 mile long pipeline from the Iron Bridge Regional Water Pollution Control Facility located in Oviedo, Florida. Iron Bridge is the City of Orlando’s largest wastewater treatment plant permitted to accept and treat up to 40 million gallons per day. Nearly 70-percent of Iron Bridge’s discharge flow is directed to the OEW.
Once the reclaimed water enters the OEW, 1,200 acres of wetlands efficiently remove nitrogen and phosphorus from the flow. As the marshland plants grow, they sequester phosphorus and use it for biomass growth, thereby removing it from the water. When the plants die they fall into the water building up the bottom of the wetland cells. Buried in all of this organic biomass and debris is an accumulation of phosphorus which at some point will need to be removed.
After numerous research efforts and studies, it was determined that time had finally come to harvest the accumulated biomass. In August of 2002, the OEW underwent its first wetland renovation. Renovations have continued ever since. During each renovation, approximately 18” of muck is removed from the bottom of the treatment cells.
In 2011, the largest wetland renovation was undertaken; 47.4 acres in Cell 17 and 69.4 acres in Cell 16A. This 117 acre renovation project would result in the removal of over 282,000 cubic yards of muck and vegetation. Once the muck has been removed and the ground has been leveled out, aquatic plants are reinstalled. Typically, beneficial plants such as giant bulrush, pickerelweed, duck potato and other native plants are sought after for their phosphorus removal abilities and usefulness to wildlife.