Water Environment Federation (WEF)

Great Swamp Effluent Management System: A Natural Partnership


The Great Swamp Effluent Management System (EMS) provides a realistic and environmentally protective solution for meeting the needs of rapidly increasing human populations in the South Carolina coastal plain area. The Great Swamp EMS includes 480 acres of riverine forested swamp that is naturally adapted to serve as a discharge location for highly-treated reclaimed water in excess of public reuse capacity. Currently operated under a permitted maximum discharge rate of 4.4 million gallons per day (MGD), the Great Swamp has been receiving and effectively assimilating reclaimed water since 1999. Operational data collected over this 8 year period have demonstrated that the discharge is compatible with maintenance of a diverse forested wetland plant community while providing additional polishing of dissolved nutrients in the reclaimed water. Although addition of reclaimed water has increased the swamp hydroperiod, the dominant structure of the wetland has been protected (mature tupelo gum and bald cypress trees), while fish and bird populations have been measurably increased. This use has preserved and enhanced the swamp compared to the most likely alternative land use (forestry) while providing a low-energy alternative to conventional wastewater treatment
followed by discharge through a long pipeline to a distant large river. The value of this protected resource has been acknowledged through the implementation of conservation easements and assignment of credits for wetland mitigation.

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