Microbiological Zoo At Treatment Plant Turns Wastewater Into Fertilizer

Oct 16, 2018

When you flush the toilet, where does it all go? Your waste could end up fertilizing Chicago area farms and parks, after being treated at the Stickney Water Reclamation Plant.

It’s one of the largest wastewater facilities in the world. The waters at the Stickney plant are essentially a microbiological zoo.

“We want to sort of dispel some of the myths behind wastewater treatment. It is not just a bunch of pumps and water flowing. So it is a science-based system,” said Toni Glymph-Martin, senior environmental microbiologist at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.

One of the microscopic creatures essential to treating wastewater is the tardigrade, also known as a “water bear.”

“He’ll bite a hole in its prey, and suck all the juices out of it,” Glymph-Martin said.

Built in the 1930s, it’s one of seven wastewater treatment and stormwater management facilities for the MWRDGC, providing service for more than 5 million people in Chicago and suburban Cook County.

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