The PSD annually recycles more than 1 billion gallons of wastewater into beneficial recycled water. It then plays a vital role in the island’s economy and ecology by providing irrigation water for 11 golf courses – thereby conserving precious drinking water. Recycled water also is used to nourish wetlands in Palmetto Hall and Hilton Head Plantation. Renowned wetlands biologist Todd Ballantine monitors the wetlands for the PSD and reports that these unique habitats for plants and wildlife would cease to exist without the benefit of recycled water.
The recycled water process mimics, at an accelerated rate, the naturally occurring process of water purification. In the initial phase of treatment, screens and grit chambers remove large solids as well as sand and gravel, protecting the remaining treatment infrastructure from excessive wear and damage. The wastewater then flows to the aeration basin where microbes biologically break down or consume the organic matter. After aeration, the water flows to the sedimentation tank, or clarifier, where the water is separated from microorganisms and solids that settle by gravity. The water then receives a chlorine injection to destroy any remaining bacteria or microorganisms. Finally, the water undergoes tertiary, or advanced, treatment that removes extremely fine solids and particles. The bio-solids produced by the process are dewatered and disposed of in a sanitary landfill.
The recycled water is then stored at the PSD’s Recycled Water Plant on Oak Park drive, pumped to designated lagoons and tanks at golf courses, or sent to the wetlands.