The Santa Ana River. (Credit Scottthezombie/ CC BY-SA 3.0)
Officials with the Orange County Water District have built wetlands to remove drugs and chemical pollutants from the Santa Ana River, according to Yale Environment 360. The man-made area covers about 425 acres.
The Prado Wetlands sit near the end of the 96-mile Santa Ana. Water is slowed by a series of weir boxes that reduce its travel time through the area to about a week. The slowed flow helps to remove nitrogen, phosphorus and other contaminants from the river.
But no typical man-made wetland will do for removing more potent contaminants like medical drugs and synthetic compounds. To help remove those, scientists built three different ponds where water is subjected to sunlight and bacteria that help to degrade chemicals including antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs and sex hormones.
The wetlands, which are each the length of five Olympic swimming pools, have been successful for the Santa Ana River. And scientists say they aren’t as expensive when compared to other methods that remove the contaminants.
“There are a lot of potential applications of this technology to give communities a more cost-effective treatment than traditional approaches,” said Larry Barber, researcher at the USGS, to Yale Environment 360.
Top image: The Santa Ana River. (Credit Scottthezombie/ CC BY-SA 3.0)