An inside look at how JEA is making reclaimed water safe to drink

JEA is testing two treatment processes that make reclaimed water safe to drink.

“The goal of all of this is water sustainability,” Tom Bartol said. “We know that at a certain point in time groundwater -- which we get our water from now -- will be limited.”

Bartol is manager of water policy and permitting at JEA. He took Action News Jax inside JEA’s water treatment plant, where the company is testing two methods, using biological technology and membrane technology.

It’s part of a $2 million project.

In the biological process, reclaimed water flows into a tank where iron is added to it.

Bartol said the iron causes small particles in the water to combine into larger particles, which then settle to the bottom of the tank.

The noticeably clearer water then flows through an ozone chamber that breaks up complex molecules.

The molecules are removed from the water as it flows through four biological filters.

“We’re testing different types of filters and flow rates,” Bartol said.

The second process uses membrane technology to remove unwanted molecules through specialized filters and reverse osmosis.

The water first flows through an ultrafiltration unit that removes large particles.

It then goes into a second set of chambers.

“It gets forced through by osmosis,” Bartol said. “Force that water through those filters. Pure water goes out.”

The last step in both processes is removing any remaining particles by using hydrogen peroxide and ultraviolet light.

“It's all about public health and safety in these systems and that’s really the highest-priority goal of ours,” Bartol said.

The end result was apparent in two sets of bottles – one from each process.

Bartol said once a filtration plant is up and running, the water would be injected into the aquifer, from which we get drinking water.

“(It) allow us and others to use more of the water as we go forward 10, 20, 30 years from now,” he said.

JEA is testing the processes over a two-year period. Engineers say it will be up to 10 years before a filtration plant is up and running.