Making a Splash

EPA visit spotlights WaterHub

Water Hub
Bottoms Up: Emory's reclaimed water is not drinkable, but it will save the university millions of gallons a year.
Eric Vance

Gina McCarthy, administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), visited Emory in February. Partly at the urging of her chief of staff, Emory law graduate Gwen Keyes Fleming 93L, she came to tour the new WaterHub water reclamation facility and to speak with a class of environmental law students at the School of Law.

At the greenhouse-like WaterHub—the first and only one of its kind in the country—McCarthy (below) was greeted by Ciannat Howett, director of the Office of Sustainability Initiatives. “We have an opportunity here to model best practices in water stewardship and build a culture of conservation,” Howett said. “And we hope to further the acceptance of reclaimed water.”

The WaterHub, which uses a natural, plant-driven treatment process to clean and repurpose up to four hundred thousand gallons of campus wastewater a day, is expected to save Emory millions of gallons of water a year by replacing drinkable water previously used for processes that don’t need it. The ecological water re-use system will provide nearly 90 percent of utility water needed and 40 percent of the campus’s overall water, reducing Emory’s drain on Atlanta’s overtaxed municipal water supply by up to 146 million gallons annually.

“This sort of project is important for the EPA,” McCarthy said. “We have to start treating nothing as waste.”

McCarthy also was impressed with the research component of the WaterHub, which is being studied by students in the Rollins School of Public Health and in connection with the Center for Global Safe Water at Emory. Data from the WaterHub will be used to help determine if similar facilities can be effectively utilized in developing countries.

“It’s great that this campus has such a strong health care component,” McCarthy said, “because that’s where you really have to tie these issues together.”

The WaterHub includes a 50,000-gallon emergency water reserve that will allow Emory’s heating and cooling systems to function for up to seven hours if there is a disruption in water supply.

“With this facility, we’re taking a major step forward in becoming one of the first in the nation with this technology for cleaning our own wastewater,” says Matthew Early, Emory’s vice president for Campus Services.—P.P.P

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