BOZEMAN - Some of the world’s foremost experts in harnessing the ability of wetlands to treat wastewater and control pollution will convene at Big Sky Resort on Aug. 21-25 for the Seventh International Symposium for Wetland Pollutant Dynamics and Control, known as WETPOL.
Otto Stein, a professor in the Department of Civil Engineering in Montana State University’s College of Engineering, has played a key role in bringing the biennial conference to the U.S. for the first time. WETPOL has previously been hosted throughout Europe, where carefully constructed wetland systems have been used for decades to treat municipal wastewater.
According to Stein, the event is a major step in advancing the use of wetland technology in the U.S., particularly in Montana.
“This is an opportunity to expose consultants and regulators to a technology that I think could really play an important role in improving water quality,” Stein said.
WETPOL will bring together scientists making discoveries about the biochemistry of natural wetlands as well as engineers experienced in using man-made wetlands to treat domestic wastewater or pollution from agricultural runoff, stormwater or other sources. Such systems can be used to remove contaminants from waterways polluted by mining, for instance.
According to Stein, wetlands are often referred to as nature’s kidneys for their ability to purify water. Constructed wetlands often consist of beds of gravel and sand, underlain by impermeable liners and drainage pipes, that host wetland plants such as sedges. The roots of the plants, in turn, host microbes that naturally consume nitrogen and other components of wastewater or runoff.
Bringing WETPOL to Montana is an outgrowth of Stein’s two-decades-long dedication to researching wetland technology and conducting pilot projects in cooperation with other faculty and student researchers at MSU.
Two of those projects will be included in field trips offered to WETPOL attendees. One, at the Ennis National Fish Hatchery, is currently being used to treat the effluent that the hatchery generates. The pilot project was the primary reason that the facility was selected for the 2016 Hatchery of the Year award from among more than 70 USFWS hatcheries nationwide.
The Ennis project built on an earlier pilot study at Bridger Bowl, where a wetland system has been used since 2013 to treat a portion of the wastewater produced by the resort’s base lodges. That project is ongoing, and Stein said the results have been promising.
A full schedule of the events’ presentations, workshops and field trips can be found at http://wetpol.org/program/agenda.
Contact: Otto Stein, firstname.lastname@example.org, (406) 994-6121.