Gray water gains aesthetics
Few things are more desirable to quality of life than clear, sparkling water – to drink, bathe and swim in, to wash dishes and launder clothes with.
But like many other facets of life today, recycled water, also called “gray water,” is firmly entrenched. Household gray water can be gently reused in tasks like irrigating lawns, trees, watering household flowers and plants, although there are caveats.
Then there is gray water on a much larger scale.
“In the field of wastewater engineering, the term ‘gray water’ refers to water discharged from showers or sinks but not toilets,” said Vernon Azevedo, P.E., Remedial Measures Program manager in Lexington, Ky.
“If it’s discharged from a toilet it becomes black water. Both are sewage per federal regulations, and neither can be discharged without treatment. But gray water can be recycled with less treatment. This is further complicated when rainwater or groundwater is mixed with sewage rainwater and groundwater becomes sewage.”
The introduction of groundwater and rainwater to sewage systems is a nationwide problem, since it regularly results in overflows of sewage to the nation’s waterways. Eliminating the introduction and mixing of rainwater and groundwater with sewage is a very expensive and difficult problem to eliminate.
One solution is to capture the additional flow and store it until the level of flow in the sewage system is reduced. Then the captured flow can be introduced back into the system. However, no one wants to see large gray water tanks marring the landscape.
Lexington has been a forerunner in incorporating gray water tanks into the immediate scenery. One such project is the picturesque 12-mile Legacy Trail that will surround the city’s latest tank construction project.
“This is the approach that Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government is taking — to capture and hold for future treatment the extraneous flow from groundwater and rainwater…” said Azevedo.
A contractor is building the foundation of the tank. Construction will be ongoing for the next six to seven months.
According to Michelle Kosieniak, registered landscape architect and superintendent of planning and design, LFUCG Division of Parks and Recreation, the division is vested in the project because the new plaza and restrooms will serve park visitors. Parks and recreation will have some maintenance responsibilities for the plaza and restrooms once they are completed.
Other factions involved in the committee include community foundation representatives, art and trail advocates, bike and pedestrian safety experts, University of Kentucky representatives and local business owners.
“We worked for more than a year to come up with the plan recently approved by council,” said Akers, concluding that the tank will be located on a trail in a public park and is surrounded by the interstate and a research park owned by the University of Kentucky.
“There have been two landscape architecture firms involved and many stakeholders, including UK, the 2nd District Urban County Council representative and others,” said Kosieniak, adding that the project was funded through the Remedial Measures program in the Division of Water Quality.
There were initial concerns about the tank impacting the trail and park visually, she said. Residents understood the tank was a necessary part of required sewer improvements, though.
“It was quickly accepted that the tank is part of a greater story that needs to be understood. I believe the new plaza, restrooms and other amenities compensate for the visual changes caused by the train being realigned for the tank.
“Some of the elements originally suggested by the tank facade and plaza were wonderfully creative, but upon closer examination, it became clear they were neither feasible nor sustainable,” she added. “Some people were unhappy to see those ideas eliminated. But we are confident that the final design represents the best core ideas suggested by the group and that they are all practical and sustainable.”
The project was a $590 million endeavor that began more than 10 years ago to remedy Lexington’s sewer and storm water issues. It carried the incentive of enhancing rather than taking away from the Legacy Trail.
Water Quality began planning the tank in 2008, when the settlement of the lawsuit against LFUCG for violations of the Clean Water Act was finalized, according to Monica Conrad, director of parks and recreation.
“Design of the tank began in May 2014; the stakeholder process for the architectural improvements began in August 2014,” said Conrad, adding that the new tank is part of the sanitary sewer improvements required by the EPA Consent Decree.
“We are thankful to the mayor, the administration and Water Quality for including in the project some much-needed trail amenities in the new plaza, such as a restroom, drinking fountain and a shady resting place.”
Completion is scheduled for December, although architectural improvements will not be completed until the summer of 2017, noted Conrad.