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Scott County tries treating sewage with algae

Scott County is pioneering a new way to treat sewage generated at West Lake Park. The technology is a first in Iowa, using only algae, and no chemicals, to clea...

DAVENPORT, Iowa -- Scott County is pioneering a new way to treat sewage generated at West Lake Park. The technology is a first in Iowa, using only algae, and no chemicals, to clean the water. News 8 received a first look at the facility.

The new facility, fitted with solar panels on its slanted roof, is just east of Interstate 280 in Davenport.

“It’s kind of a state of the art type of technology,” said Roger Larson, Park Manager of West Lake Park and Buffalo Shores.

The sewage runs under the lake and I-280, first hitting bar screens underground that filter larger pieces of garbage.  It then flows inside the facility, into rows and rows of tanks mounted with wheels, covered in slimy algae.

“This is the algaewheel we have in the tank,” he explained.  “As the sewage comes into the plant, if you look at it as food for algae, then the more sewage that comes into the plant, the more the algae grows.”

Oxygen is pumped into the tanks from underneath.

“The bubbling is from the air we infuse into the tanks, which keeps the algaewheel moving," he said.  "In this type of process we don’t use any chemicals to treat the sewage. It’s all done naturally through the process.”

In the winter, the sewage goes through another step, running through a channel underneath ultraviolet light. The light kills of E. coli, but cold temperatures make this step unnecessary in the winter, Larson said.

Finally, the water flows back outside into clarifier tanks, where solid particles will settle on the ground, before the water is discharged into Black Hawk Creek.  Thousands of gallons flow through depending on the season.

This is not lake water. This is the sewage that comes from the campgrounds, the showers and some of the other restroom facilities at West Lake Park.

Larson said the Scott County Conservation Board needed to replace the old facility to meet newer and stricter EPA guidelines.

The plant is also self-sustaining with the solar panels providing electrical power. It uses less voltage too, while providing cleaner water for those along Black Hawk Creek.