Oostanaula Creek Planning Study and Water Quality Enhancement
LOCATION: Athens, Tennessee
- Lee Gentry
- Funding Research
- Regulatory Assistance
- Sustainable Planning
- Wastewater Reuse
- Watershed Analysis
The City of Athens, much of McMinn County, and part of Monroe county drain into the Oostanaula Creek, a tributary of the Hiwassee River. The Oostanaula Creek watershed is approximately 70 square miles in area and consists of a central urban zone, as well as, a larger rural zone. Other zones consist primarily of wooded, agricultural, pastures, and rural residential land.
Oostanaula Creek is on the State of Tennessee’s 303(d) list of “impaired” streams. This means that the quality of water in portions of the stream do not meet the criteria set for the streams designated uses. The stream is presently impacted by E. coli for its entire 40 mile length. In addition, the stream is contaminated by sediments and phosphorus in a 7.4 mile reach downstream of the City and the Oostanaula Creek wastewater treatment plant. Studies by the State of Tennessee indicate that these pollutants must be reduced substantially for the stream to attain water quality levels that are consistent with its intended recreational uses.
LDA was retained by the Athens Utilities Board (AUB) to review a number of issues related to water quality with a focus on initiatives that can be promoted by AUB to help improve water quality. The two key items studies were the wastewater treatment plant effluent reuse program and enhancing the pollutant removal capabilities of an existing back-up water supply impoundment owned by AUB. In addition, LDA studied an analysis of the potential for decreasing downstream flooding by modifying the operation of the existing impoundment.
The overall result was a program that targeted the growing regional switch grass industry. Reuse water would contain significant amounts of two of the major nutrients required for plant growth - nitrogen and phosphorus. If reuse water can be economically distributed to farms for irrigation of switch grass, a substantial portion of the wastewater treatment plant “waste” could be reclaimed and used in a beneficial manner. Not only benefiting the switch grass farmers, but also the environment due to converting marginal pollution-producing land to low impact land, and by reducing the amount of phosphorus discharged from the treatment plant.
The report provided a concept for a pilot project to determine the degree to which irrigation with effluent water can create an economic incentive for construction of a reuse distribution system. In addition, the study recommended that the impoundment owned by AUB be modified to further enhance its capabilities to remove pollutants from the stream.Back to Projects