The Land Treatment Site has an active forestry management program. As the pines mature and their ability to store nutrients decreases, the mature trees will be harvested and used for pulp wood. Young seedlings will be planted to repeat the cycle. The forestry management program has been planned to minimize the impact on daily operations.
Tree Mortality Under Study
When the City of Jacksonville built the Wastewater Land Treatment System in 1998, the site was the first major system constructed like it in the state. Heralded as environmentally friendly and expandable, the project allowed the City to stop discharging into the New River, which led to the innovative cleanup of the river and restoration of habitat there. The Wastewater Land Treatment System treats wastewater from the City and then irrigates a forestland owned by the City with the treated liquid. The system has, and continues, to work well.
In 2007 when an expansion project was underway, City staff noticed that some trees were dying at the site. The number was small, but apparently more than had been naturally occurring in the area. An expert in this type of system was brought in, but no specific reason was found for the deaths. It was noted that the year was unusually dry compared to other years.
More evidence of tree mortality was found after the study was complete, and the City expanded the number of experts consulted about the issue. Again, no conclusive answer was found that explained the deaths. There were a number of suggestions, including that the City take action to lower the pH (a unit that measures the ‘acid’ liquid) of the spray. The City purchased equipment to help with that issue, and took actions to follow up on some of the other suggestions including controlled burning of the site.
Most Recent Review
In October 2010, the City secured another group to review the steps taken and to undertake further investigation. Again, the results were not conclusive and a number of other suggestions were made including further study.
In January 2011, City Manager Richard Woodruff briefed the City Council on a plan that will bring in a panel of experts. It is hoped that with experts from different backgrounds and resources, they might be able to evaluate many different options for the problem.
Plant Functions Not Affected
While the deaths of the trees concerns City Council members and the staff, the capacity of the plant to adequately treat wastewater has not been diminished by the deaths of the trees. Only about 6% of the trees in the area that is irrigated by the spraying are estimated to have been affected. The state tightly regulates the City in the matter of the spraying of the trees and other critical factors at the site. However, the City wishes to learn the cause of the problem and to deal with it in a practical and cost-effective manner for the rate-payers of the City.
If you have questions, please call the City Manager's Office for additional information at 910 938-5221.