Cincinnati Nature Center

The Ohio EPA was understandably skeptical and cautious when the Cincinnati Nature Center in Milford, Ohio, selected a low-energy, low-maintenance, innovative system featuring newly-patented Algaewheel® technology for its on-site wastewater treatment.

The Cincinnati Nature Center hosts more than 100,000 visitors a year. Its Rowe Woods site is located roughly 20 miles east of Cincinnati and spans 1,025 acres (including 65 acres of old growth forest) with more than 16 miles of hiking trails. With no available connection to public sewers, the Center must perform wastewater treatment on site. They had been exhausting valuable time and resources on the maintenance of two separate and failing 40-year-old subsurface wastewater treatment plants whose capacity had long since been outgrown. Jason Brownknight, Director of Conservation and Stewardship, began a lengthy investigation before arriving at a new environmentally sustainable solution that would be in line with one of the Center’s primary values: stewardship of the land.

The Center initiated talks of implementation with the Algaewheel’s creator and soon learned that an Ohio-licensed engineer would be needed. Brownknight was familiar with CEC due to previous investigations into fi rms with wastewater and site engineering expertise. When the Center approached CEC to manage the project for the entirely new sanitary sewer system and wastewater treatment plant, they learned that CEC already had been working with the Algaewheel inventors to identify a project opportunity to implement the technology in Ohio. “We were impressed,” said Brownknight. “The fact that CEC was familiar with the technology made us feel that much more comfortable working with them.”

To help the Center obtain its permits, CEC diligently met with the OEPA early and often to explain the technology. “This plant treats wastewater to a final effluent quality equal to municipal treatment plant standards as required by the OEPA,” said Matt Gramza, CEC’s project manager responsible for all permitting and design of the wastewater collection system and site. “It isn’t a glorified septic system; it will treat the water for surface discharge into a stream on a nature preserve. There is absolutely no shortcutting of water quality.” Completed in 2011, it was the first on-site surface discharging wastewater treatment plant featuring Algaewheel technology permitted and built in Ohio.

The goal for the project was minimal disturbance to both the natural environment and center operations. The centralized system’s 0.25-acre footprint also was designed to allow new facilities to connect directly without additional footprint requirements, saving plenty of space for future projects. “CEC also was able to offer fi eld assessment and provide an on-site geotechnical expert during excavations,” said Brownknight. “They offered a lot of additional benefits, and it really worked in our favor.”

Surface discharge tests for ammonia and carbonaceous biological oxygen demand (CBOD) are showing water quality results much better than limits required by the OEPA. Brownknight added that the system has consistently maintained levels well below OEPA requirements.