Constructed wetlands are a more sustainable and
cost-effective alternative to wastewater treatment
in comparison to conventional municipal treatment plants.
Through the microbial activity,
wetlands naturally treat contaminants and pollutants,
providing a more biologically efficient method of wastewater treatment.
Wetland treatment has worked successfully on a
large-scale such as the systems in Clayton County,
GA, and Orange County, CA. However, wetlands have not been used
for wastewater treatment
on a small-rural scale.
In 2016, Dr. McGrath, Professor of Biology at Sewanee,
lobbied for the construction of three wetland basins at the Sewanee
Utility District (SUD) in order to research the efficacy of wetlands
for wastewater treatment for a small community setting.
For the past few years, water quality measurements have been
taken at the SUD's wetlands to better determine the outcomes of wetland treatment
in rural communities like Sewanee. Our team's goal was to set up visualizations
that allow our community partner, Dr. McGrath, to understand the water quality
trends of the wetlands over time in order to push for sustainable development
in the community.
Our dashboard is set up to show the trends of water quality
parameters for two treatment sites: the conventional lagoon treatment
and the experimental wetland treatment. We’ve used EPA standards
on surface water quality to determine whether the wetlands meet the
criteria for each parameter. Additionally, the water quality trends
are shown throughout years, months, days, and hours, so that Dr. McGrath
can have a better insight on when wetland treatment performs best.
Furthermore, we show trends in weather data, such as air temperature
and precipitation in order to assess the impacts that climate change
has had on the wetlands.
Our most essential tab on the dashboard
is the aerator tab. The aerator was added
to wetland treatment at the beginning of 2022
as a way to increase dissolved oxygen levels in the wetlands.
In our data from 2020-2021, dissolved oxygen has been much
lower than we would want because of invasive species taking
over the small wetland basin. However, Dr. McGrath predicts
that the implementation of the aerator will increase oxygen
levels in the water; therefore, improving the overall quality
of water in the wetlands. From our time at DataLab, all of the
data we worked with was pre-aeration; however, we’ve set up our
dashboard in a way that allows Dr. McGrath to continue inputting
data, so that she can see the impacts that the aerator has on the
quality of wetland treatment.