WPCP’s Role in Preserving Public Health Through Sanitation


Back in August, the Water Pollution Control Plant (WPCP) celebrated 50 years of service to the Muscatine community.  As you are able to read in the tour recap blog post, the process of removing harmful organisms and other contaminates from wastewater once it gets to WPCP is a lengthy, yet crucial process. Many in the developed world take for granted the quality sanitation procedures that occur within their communities.

What exactly is sanitation?

Sanitation is “the study and application of procedures and measures designed to protect public health, as in the provision of clean water and the disposal of sewage and waste,” (American Heritage Dictionary 2011). While most of us know that sanitation involves sewage and waste, something many neglect to recognize is that sanitation work is for the protection of public health. It is not just about getting rid of waste, but about making sure that wastewater and garbage are taken care of properly to protect the public. 

In fact, a global survey determined sanitation to be the biggest medical milestone of the last 150 years. While new vaccines, surgeries and medicines have been invented and discovered, the leading response in the British Medical Journal’s survey about medical milestones was sanitation. “It’s also impressive that in a field of respondents led by physicians and researchers who focus on treating disease, so many remembered the importance of preventing it,” Ted J. Rulseh wrote in the article Greatest Medical Milestone? ‘Sanitation,’ Says Global Study.

I encourage you to read Greatest Medical Milestone? ‘Sanitation,’ Says Global Study as it provides more data on the decline of mortality rates once improved sanitation was implemented. It points toward treating the problem of diseases at the root instead of once people have been infected; the facts suggest that this is a better solution for some of the world’s health problems.

How does Muscatine’s Water Pollution Control Plant protect public health?

WPCP takes innovative steps to utilize wastewater as a resource. They are working toward a transformation to ultimately rename the facility Water Resource Recovery Facility (WRRF). In the name change, they recognize the full potential of what they have in the N-E-W paradigm. WPCP uses N-E-W to represent three key resources in wastewater: Nutrients, Energy and Water. They are vital to the success of any community. Recovered nutrients are replacing fertilizers on farms, energy is being generated in the form of renewable natural gas, and clean water reuse can help replace the dwindling supply both above and below ground. Clean water is essential for life and health, so the work of WPCP is clearly necessary for the health of our community.

The new project that WPCP proposed during budget sessions is called MAARVE (or the Muscatine Area Resource Recovery for Vehicles & Energy program). MAARVE is being designed to be a community wide effort to reduce or eliminate organic waste streams being sent to the landfill. In turn, that organic waste will be used for the creation of economical, clean and renewable vehicle fuel. The materials that would be used include FOG (fats, oils and grease) from restaurants, waste products from industry that are unfit for consumption, and waste food scraps from grocery stores, schools and homes.

It is estimated that the MARRVE program’s utilization of organic waste would be able to eliminate 20% of the daily load to the landfill and generate revenue for the City, all while cleaning the air. The benefits of this program could be enormous!

The first phase of this initiative is called the High Strength Waste Receiving Project. It will begin by acquiring the necessary material to generate gas and reduce organic waste in our landfill. The next phase will come once WPCP has determined the best use for the gas and how much they are able to generate from the organic waste.

This project is an exciting step forward for Muscatine! Be sure to watch for more posts on the blog and on Facebook about WPCP’s efforts as they embrace the N-E-W paradigm.

Thank you for reading!

2 Replies to “WPCP’s Role in Preserving Public Health Through Sanitation”

  1. This is a great initiative. As water treatment plants can be a source of important money waste because of energy consumption when it is not designed or operated properly, it also have a strong potential of re-use and development (biogas, treated sludge landfill etc.), Muscatine seems to have understood it. Hope Muscatine will be an example for other cities because this should be widespread everywhere.


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