Albemarle’s Marsh

A Commitment to Protect our Environment

As Albemarle’s global presence increases, so does our responsibility to protecting the environment. With each year our commitment to environmental performance has grown. We challenge our team’s expertise and ingenuity to change how we work for the betterment of the environment.

Albemarle’s Marsh

You can see one example of Albemarle Corporation’s commitment to our environment in a unique waste water treatment facility at our Magnolia, Arkansas plants: a marsh.

This marsh serves as a natural purification system for non-contact process water and storm-water runoff. It is based on the simplest and most efficient water purification scheme, the same one used by Mother Nature.

Increased industrial development and population growth are gradually threatening the earth’s fragile ecology. Our society today owes it to the world of tomorrow to do everything possible to maintain this delicate balance.

With this in mind, our marsh represents Albemarle’s commitment to a higher level of environmental accountability.

Treating Wastewater Naturally – Initial Concept

The main objective of the marsh is to provide a natural means for treating non-contact process water and storm-water runoff.

This involves removing low levels of toxicity from large quantities of water using environmentally safe, economically sound, cost-effective and functionally proven methods.

Our treatment concept is a result of 20 years of research conducted by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). While NASA’s main objective was directed toward future waste water treatment and water reuse in space, immediate applications can help solve problems that exist here on earth.

Albemarle’s interest in this innovative technology began while seeking additional treatment capabilities for existing water handling operations. New environmental permit requirements called for the treatment of all rainwater and non-contact water exiting the plant. The system required monitoring water flow, temperature and pH through three existing outfall stations, each to be operated under National Pollution Discharge Elimination Systems (NPDES) permit requirements.

Once aware of these impending regulations, Albemarle began an aggressive program that met the regulations long before they were required. What better way than to go straight to the world’s leading authority? The company contacted Dr. B.C. Wolverton, former Head of the Environmental Research laboratory for NASA’s National Space Technology Laboratory.

Dr. Wolverton is credited with pioneering research and development in marsh treatment processes, many of which were already at work throughout southern sections of the United States.

Preconstruction regulatory requirements included a feasibility study, Wetland Evaluation and Mitigation Analysis, Cultural Resource Impact Survey, Corps of Engineers Dredge and Fill Permit and an NPDES permit.

An Economical Environmental Solution – Original Concept

Albemarle Magnolia’s first Marsh water treatment system became operational in 1993 at our South Plant. It utilizes aquatic plants to treat an average of one million gallons per day of non-contact water and storm water runoff from within the main plant and adjacent areas.

The exciting part of this technology is that it relies on an economical, naturally occurring biological process that does not harm the environment or consume large amounts of energy. It has the capacity to contain and purify the occasional accidental discharge of contaminated runoff without constructing an expensive water treatment plant.

And with the success of the marsh at the South Plant, is it any wonder that the company was inspired to construct an marsh at its West Plant? The West Plant Marsh began operation in October, 1995 on 10 acres of land just east of the plant. It operates much the same as the South Plant marsh, and can effectively treat 250,000 gallons of water per day.

The water treatment facility at the South plant consists of a mixing lagoon or retention basin, two parallel aquatic plant filters (marshes) and a storm water impoundment basin. At the West plant, there are only two functional areas: a combination lagoon – impoundment basin and two parallel aquatic plant filters..

Balancing Water & pH Naturally – Lagoon

In both marshes, existing plant rainwater is re-routed into a common retention basin, or lagoon. It serves as a holding basin and equalizing area for water with excess heat and varying pH levels.

Outfalls exit the main production areas from different locales. Depending on the process units involved, water temperatures and pH levels can vary. By combining warmer water with cooler outflows, and higher pH water with lower pH water, this equalizing objective is accomplished during the four-day average lagoon retention time.

At the South Plant, this basin averages six feet in depth and covers approximately four acres. At the West Plant, the two-acre basin normally averages only 20 to 22 inches in depth, but has the capacity to hold a 3.7 million gallon surge after heavy rain. No aquatic plants were bedded in the lagoons, but some have appeared naturally. 

A Natural Plant Treatment Filter – Marshes

Two nearly identical plant treatment filters (marshes) receive water from the lagoon. The South Plant marshes are approximately 2,000 feet long and 180 feet wide and are in an extended “S” configuration, due primarily to natural topography. The West Plant marshes are 1,000 feet long and 90 feet wide, and are separated by a three-foot levee. Each of the marshes will average 12 to 18 inches in depth, depending on rainfall.

Approximately 40,000 aquatic plants were planted in each marsh, including maiden cane, southern bulrush and southern cattails. Their roots provide habitat for a large number of bacteria and other microorganisms, which feed on minerals and organic chemicals in the water.

As organics and minerals are digestedby the micro-organisms, sugar and amino acids are produced, which are absorbed by plant roots as food. This complimentary relationship allows the water to be purified by the plant roots, and the plant’s abundant leaves help restore oxygen and help regulate the amount of carbon dioxide and othergases in the atmosphere.

The purity of the water coming out of the marsh is determined by the length and depth of the filters, the number of aquatic plants and the time that the water remains in the filter. The hydraulic retention time in a marsh of this size is approximately five days.

Outlets from each marsh are connected to form a single discharge stream. Prior to entering Horsehead Creek (South Plant) or Dismuke Creek (West Plant), this effluent passes through a monitor station under NPDES permits. Temperature, pH and flows are monitored locally, and daily samples are taken for quality control evaluation.

Using Storm Water Overflow Naturally – Impoundment Basin

There are an additional 30 acres of natural wetlands adjacent to the marshes at the South Plant. This storm-water impoundment is encircled by a levee system that provides extra hold-up capacity in the event of a very large rainfall. Overflow water then can be treated in the marsh. This bordered area was left as undisturbed as possible during construction. It contains forest habitat that is common to the region – oaks, pine, beech and willow, for example.

The majority of the marsh is fenced to prevent accidental intrusion, but not enough to exclude wildlife. This provides another important benefit: additional natural habitat for the area’s original “residents.” Bird houses and a variety of fish have been added to the marsh, and vegetation common to the area has been planted.

On any given day, your chances of seeing deer, wild ducks, otter, rabbits, mice or hawks are good.

Monitoring Waste Water

Albemarle employees are on duty at the marsh from daylight to dark, and their responsibilities include feeding wildlife and monitoring the health of the marsh.

Serving the Community Responsibly – Responsible Care

Our artificial marsh for waste water treatment is just one example of Albemarle’s enduring commitment to Responsible Care.

Our goal is to protect and enhance our environment, because we believe that nature is too fragile and too important to ignore.

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Last Updated: 3/30/2011 6:59:18 PM