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The award-winning leachate program in New Hanover County, N.C., is part of a plan to turn a landfill into a wildlife park. Photo: New Hanover County

A North Carolina county's biological treatment of landfill leachate has received a National Association of Counties 2005 Achievement Award.

New Hanover County's system provides treatment of up to 60,000 gallons of leachate per day, which is then discharged into a 0.6-acre retention pond and used for irrigation purposes, rather than being released into the nearby Cape Fear River. The project was developed to meet New Hanover County Department of Environmental Management's goal to consider alternative, cost-effective, and long-term options of treatment of wastewater from the county's landfill. This goal resulted in a solution that relies on constructed wetlands for treatment of leachate. The 5-acre wetlands system helps to fulfill the long-term, landfill closure plan, which involves transforming the site into a wildlife park and habitat. In addition to the environmental advantages of using constructed wetlands for solid waste treatment, the project will serve the community years into the future, at a low operational cost.

Cambridge, Mass.-based consulting firm CDM provided permitting support, design, and construction oversight of the wetland. The county partnered with North Carolina State University, through grants from the North Carolina Division of Coastal Management and the Water Environment Research Foundation, to study five small constructed wetlands during the preliminary research phases of the project.