Louisiana swamp - Getty Image

Sewage treatment plants to the rescue of the bayou

Posted on 12 November 2015.

Thousands of square meters of bayous are swallowed up every year. Locally the Sewerage and Water Board are leveraging their treatment plants to stem the tide.

A soccer field. Lost every hour from the mangroves, lagoons, marshes and bayous that protect Louisiana.

Think back 10 years. Exhausted, in makeshift boats drifting on the mingling waters of the Mississippi and Lake Pontchartrain, survivors floated among the rooftops. And the flooded streets of New Orleans become the sad symbol of Katrina. With gusts of up to 280 km / h, the hurricane officially formed on August 23, 2005, resulting in 1,800 fatalities and causing damage and destruction along the Gulf Coast of the United States.

Restoring operations was the first priority. The Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans and its wastewater partner, Veolia North America, worked around-the-clock to meet an emergency 60-day EPA deadline to restore primary and secondary wastewater treatment. Together, they quickly brought the city’s sewerage treatment back online after Hurricane Katrina, a move essential to safeguarding public health.

Ten years later, the Sewerage and Water Board has rebuilt the water treatment infrastructure. Now this public utility service is rising to another challenge: Regenerating the wetlands that are so characteristic of New Orleans and were badly damaged by Katrina. Particularly since New Orleans is a member of the "100 Resilient Cities" network pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation.

48,750 square kilometers of swamp lost

A soccer field. Lost every hour from the mangroves, lagoons, marshes and bayous that protect Louisiana. Between 1932 and 2010, 48,750 square kilometers have been wiped off the map, from construction and the hurricanes - Katrina in 2005 and Rita which followed. And then Gustav and Ike in 2008. So to restore the coastal heritage and its unique biodiversity, the Sewerage and Water Board is putting Mother Nature to work.

Biosolids nourishing the cypress forest

A wetlands assimilation project, developed in conjunction with Tulane University, is working to restore urban, degraded wetlands into a lavish cypress forest. The nutritious, organic matter produced during wastewater treatment helps to raise the wetland by about 1 meter. The objective? To help the cypress and tupelo trees that are so typical of the bayous. Rehabilitated into lush forest, and with the return of the associated fauna and flora, Louisiana’s wetlands will once again be able to fulfil their “green lung” role.