Baxter Healthcare's Partnership With Local Nursery to Yield Environmental Benefits

Aug. 23, 2002
Treated Wastewater to Irrigate Nursery Stock

Baxter Healthcare Corporation and Synnestvedt Company's nursery division has launched a novel water reclamation project that will beneficially reuse treated wastewater at Baxter's Round Lake, Ill., campus. The project, a first-of-its kind in Illinois, involves Baxter leasing approximately 185 acres of land to Synnestvedt for the planting of nursery stock, which will be irrigated with Baxter's treated wastewater.

The companies launched the project today at a tree planting ceremony held at Baxter's Round Lake campus. Attendees included local residents, Lake County Board Member Bonnie Thomson Carter, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) Director Renee Cipriano, Illinois State Senator Bill Peterson and Illinois State Representative Mark Beaubian and other public officials.

Area residents challenged Baxter last year to identify solutions that would allow it to discontinue the discharge of its treated wastewater through a local tributary into Long Lake, a 340-acre residential and recreational body of water. Baxter evaluated options that would not only allow it to discontinue its discharge to Long Lake, but provide for a broader community and environmental benefit.

"This is a good example of how open dialogue and collaboration between local residents and business can result in significant benefits for the community and, in this case, the environment as well," said Lake County Board Member Bonnie Thomson Carter, a strong advocate and participant in the water reclamation project.

This project is unusual in a number of respects.

-- The nursery will use fully treated wastewater, which will be applied to ensure absorption by trees or soil thereby protecting against runoff.

-- During winter months when conditions are not suitable for irrigation the water will be retained in a storage pond for reuse.

-- In supporting the growth of trees and shrubs, the project allows for increased absorption of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and contributes to the company's efforts to limit global climate change.

-- It will keep water in the watershed by beneficially reusing water in the irrigation of nursery stock. At the same time, it will reduce the amount of water that is removed from the local aquifer by replacing the well water the nursery uses for irrigation with the treated wastewater discharge from Baxter.

-- The project will allow Baxter the flexibility to maintain whatever level of discharge necessary to support wetland habitats downstream of the company's Round Lake facility.

"I commend Baxter and the Long Lake community for identifying and working toward common environmental objectives," said Rene Cipriano, director of the IEPA. "The goals were aggressive, and the result truly innovative as it relates to water conservation. I hope this will inspire similar community and business partnerships focused on the preservation of natural resources."

In a parallel project, Baxter is partnering with Lake County Board Member Carter and representatives from the Long Lake Improvement and Sanitation Association, the Lake County Health Department, Stormwater Management Commission and Public Works to conduct a watershed analysis of Long Lake. This assessment will identify and quantify the impact of the many sources across the hundreds of acres of watershed that drain into Long Lake and recommend plans for improving the quality of the lake water. The analysis is scheduled to be completed this summer.

This same team of experts also served as an advisory board to Baxter in evaluating options for discontinuing its treated wastewater discharge to a tributary to Long Lake. The team supported the water reclamation option, in addition to other approaches underway that would allow Baxter to further conserve water and increase the current level of treatment. As of the end of May 2002, water conservation efforts at Baxter's Round Lake campus resulted in a 40 percent decrease in its wastewater discharge -- going from about 240,000 gallons at the beginning of 2001 to about 170,000 gallons this summer. Moreover, treatment process improvements have decreased the company's use of chlorine by nearly 60 percent.

"We are grateful to the Long Lake residents for strongly encouraging us to think outside the box about how we can better leverage our water as a resource, not a waste," said Joe Wolfsberger, vice president of environment, health and safety for many of Baxter's facilities. "I believe the results exceeded everyone's expectation about what we could accomplish working together for the benefit of the environment and the community."

Source: Baxter Healthcare Corp.

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