Ode To Sludge

Without what is more commonly called the sewer plant, we’d be in a heap of (stinky) trouble.
Without what is more commonly called the sewer plant|!!| we’d be in a heap of (stinky) trouble.

Photo by Scott Holstein

Follow steps 1 through 9 below to see the waste transformation process.

Here’s What Happens After the Flush Although it’s seen by just about everybody flying into or out of Tallahassee, the Thomas P. Smith Water Reclamation Facility is not exactly a tourist hotspot. But without what is more commonly called the sewer plant, we’d be in a heap of (stinky) trouble. Today, it’s in the middle of a six-year, $227 million upgrade, which will result in greater safety, improved reliability and odor control, and further reduce nitrogen — the bane of environmentalists everywhere.

From Wastewater to Fertilizer

Step 1 The Headworks Removes trash and grit from the wastewater, which are then hauled to the landfill.

Step 2 Primary Clarifiers Removes solids that easily settle out, and floatables like grease.

Step 3 The material then flows to the Primary Effluent Pump Station.

Step 4 Next, it’s pumped to the PEP/RAS Distribution Box. Here, the flow is split up six ways and sent to six (Step 5)
Biological Nutrient Removal Basins. These are the heart of the plant, and remove pathogens, bacteria, pollutants and nutrients.

Step 6 Effluent goes into a Secondary Clarifier. Here, solids are separated from liquids.

Step 7 Liquids are then sent to Deep Bed Denitrification Filters. Their dual purposes are to remove any leftover solids and serve as an alternate method for removing leftover nitrogen.

Step 8 Chlorine Contact Basins This is where chemical disinfection takes place.

Step 9 Disposal Treated wastewater is pumped eight miles away to the Southeast Farm on Tram Road and used for crop irrigation. In addition, a small amount is piped to SouthWood for golf course irrigation. Solid material goes through a drying process and is then sold as fertilizer.


» The Thomas P. Smith Facility is located on 208 acres of land next to the Tallahassee Regional Airport.

» Officials predict the current upgrades will give the plant enough capacity to meet the city’s needs until 2033.

» Twenty-one licensed wastewater operators work here.

» The facility has been at this site since 1964. The city built its very first water treatment plant in 1904.

» In case of a problem, the facility’s holding basins, called A, B and C, can store 22 million gallons of untreated wastewater.

» Sewage is wastewater. Sewerage are the pipes and other hardware that transport it.

» The facility broadcasts bird distress calls to prevent birds from flocking here and posing a problem for incoming aircraft.

» In 2011, the average amount of wastewater flowing to the facility was 16 million gallons a day. The design capacity is rated at 26.5 million gallons a day.

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