Wastewater Flow Monitoring – Powdermill Nature Reserve

By on August 17, 2010
Project Overview

For more than 50 years, the Powdermill Nature Reserve has been dedicated to its mission of research, education, and preservation. This is accomplished through a wide variety of educational programs that are offered to children and adults at the Florence Lockhart Nimick Nature Center. In September 2006, ground was broken to expand the center and its educational value through a $3.5 million Sustainable Facilities Development Project.

The expansion itself is designed to provide an educational opportunity for visitors to understand green construction and the benefits of implementation in construction projects. One green component of the expansion is a “Marsh Machine” that will process all wastewater at the Center.

Flow Monitoring System Description

In Powdermill’s Marsh Machine, wastewater first passes through an anaerobic digester, similar to a septic tank. Next, it passes through a series of three tanks, each filled with plants that take up nitrates, phosphates, and potassium as water passes through them. Water then cycles through a second marsh before moving to a holding tank. The processed water is recycled back through the restrooms for flushing toilets, and any excess water will be pumped into a DEP-approved drainage field.

Powdermill staff were interested in monitoring wastewater flow through the various processes of the Marsh Machine. NexSens Technology was selected to provide the data logging equipment and software for the wastewater flow monitoring system. Paddlewheel insertion sensors from GF Signet were chosen to directly measure flow in the pipes, sending the data via 4-20mA signal to the NexSens iSIC data logger.

At three strategically selected points in the recycling process, flow sensors were installed using PVC and iron pipe fittings. Local displays were set up nearby to provide a local readout of totalized flow passing through the pipes. Data from each display is sent to a NexSens iSIC data logger connected to a PC running iChart software. Here, staff members will have the opportunity to create a graphical user interface with real-time flow readouts to demonstrate the value of the Marsh Machine.

Educational exhibits will also be set up to test and monitor the relative health of the water as it passes through the system. At various locations in the plumbing, sample valves will allow visitors to take a sample of the water to test for nitrate, phosphate, and potassium levels. Additionally, processed water will flow into a trout aquarium in the exhibit hall to show visitors that the recycled product is capable of sustaining aquatic life.

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