Throughout the month of October, McFadden Engineering celebrates Campus Sustainability Month as recognized by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. Campuses around the United States engage students in sustainability efforts such as incentivizing bike rentals, recycling and more. While these displays of environmental conservation are meaningful and worthwhile, a lot more goes on behind the scenes at university campuses and educational institutions to maintain sustainability goals. This week, we are speaking with McFadden Engineering Firm Partner, Brad Newton, to find out how McFadden Engineering supports campus sustainability.
Q: Does McFadden Engineering have experience working with universities?
A: The University of Mobile is an institution of just under 2,000 students and a 20-minute drive away from McFadden’s office. We provide weekly operational services to their onsite fixed activated sludge package plant years after its design and build. This treatment system is the primary treatment option for the entire campus’s wastewater.
Q: How does this wastewater treatment project promote campus sustainability?
A: The application of this fixed activated sludge package plant is to take wastewater generated by the university, treat it and inject it back into the ground to recharge the natural aquifer. The water being used to recharge the aquifer (a naturally occurring body of rock or sediment that holds water in the ground) is treated, meaning that although it is not used for drinking purposes, it meets the standards of drinking water. Instead of drinking water, the water in this specific aquifer is utilized by the on-campus sprinkler systems. The university wide sprinkler systems are used in various applications, watering landscape areas, soccer fields and other sports facilities. It is a sustainability project in that the water is being kept on-site and sustaining that resource on campus. Our goal was not only to reduce costs but to reuse the university’s treated wastewater on campus for multiple applications. Looking at optimizing water usage and water resources on campus is something that we do for a lot of customers. In addition to recharging the natural aquifer, there is no longer a direct discharge to Chickasaw Creek therefore eliminating any potential health risks and significantly improving the university’s environmental compliance.
Q: What sustainability efforts has McFadden Engineering employed to assist high schools and primary schools?
A: The goal of Campus Sustainability Month is to raise visibility and awareness of sustainability. Supporting sustainability at a grassroots level in education, especially in the local community, is something that McFadden Engineering has always strived for. We have three clients that we service in the community. Some of them do not have access to a municipal sewer system, so on-site systems are their only option. You must get creative when addressing these schools’ specific issues. One project at Leroy High in Washington County, Alabama was completed after we designed a membrane bioreactor treatment facility that replaced the school’s fixed activated sludge treatment plant and chlorine addition system. The system was designed to be as efficient as possible, while still being reasonably priced. We are still assisting Leroy High with ongoing permit compliance and any process-related issues with the treatment system.
Q: What services can McFadden Engineering provide to other campuses/learning institutions to promote sustainability and environmental compliance?
A: Despite water scarcity not being as prevalent in the Southeast as in other areas of the country, we know that water conservation is something to be taken seriously. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, 40 out of 50 state water managers expect water shortages under average conditions in some portion of their states over the next decade. Performing water optimization analysis and water reuse studies regarding equipment and usage in different areas of campus to see if there are any opportunities for water conservancy is just part of what we offer. Our goal is to offer water resource projects for landscaping, aquifer recharge or whatever the situation may require reducing overall cost and consumption. Educational budgets can be tight, especially at the university level. It doesn’t have to mean spending more money to increase sustainability. Simple suggestions, alterations and evaluations can help make an organization’s processes more efficient. Part of the sustainability aspect can come from plant operation modifications; it does not always mean purchasing a new system.
The Intricacies of Campus Sustainability
While the extreme importance of previously mentioned surface level sustainability projects like recycling and bicycling cannot be understated, it’s important to remember that much more goes into sustainability behind the scenes. By providing these wastewater treatment services, McFadden Engineering has been able to assist the University of Mobile and multiple other learning institutions in the surrounding areas to reach their sustainability goals and lower their operating costs by doing so.
To learn more about McFadden Engineering’s work with the University of Mobile, read our case study and system overview. To learn more about the role Brad Newton serves, read his bio.