Eastern Oregon city uses waste water to grow crops

The wastewater treatment plant in John Day is 72 years old, in the floodplain, and failing. So city leaders plan to build a new one. That new facility will create millions of gallons of grey water — water that is clean enough to drink once treated, but less than desirable because it comes from showers and toilets — every year. Rather than just drain that water, city leaders want to use it to improve the town and, maybe, the town’s finances.

“We could use it for agricultural irrigation,” said city manager Nick Green. “We could use it for industrial re-use, heating and cooling, landscape irrigation, and of course crop production.”

People liked the crop production idea, so back in 2019 the City of John Day used $680,000 in community development money to build a large, greenhouse. The idea was to use grey water to grow fresh vegetables for local schools, grocery stores and restaurants, thus improving livability.

After decades of mill closures and population loss, John Day councilors think fresh, local produce might help the town retain young families. The greenhouse is 6,240 square feet, or about the size of two or three homes, stitched together on an old mill site. It opened in 2020 using regular water, because the new treatment plant isn’t built yet.

Read the complete article at www.opb.org.

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