ACEC/NC Presents Grand Award for Adaptive Ecosystem Wastewater Facility

Pender County (N.C.) Utilities and McKim & Creed, Inc. have received a 2019 Engineering Excellence Grand Award for their design and construction of an adaptive ecosystem reclamation facility at Pender Commerce Park that is the first municipal system of its kind to be installed in the southeastern US.

The “Melinda K. Knoerzer Adaptive Ecosystem Wastewater Treatment Facility” is capable of treating and recycling 500,000 gallons of wastewater per day. The reclaimed wastewater can be used for land application and waterway discharge. Also, it can be used by water-intensive tenants of Commerce Park for non-potable purposes.

The Engineering Excellence Grand Award was presented on November 8, 2018 by the American Council of Engineering Companies of North Carolina.

Within a 3,000-SF hydroponic glass greenhouse, the Knoerzer facility creates an environment where beneficial bacteria and microorganisms can flourish within natural ecosystems. Low-maintenance, hardy plants fill the greenhouse and produce long, dense root systems that thrive in wastewater. These roots serve as a natural habitat for 2,000-3,000 different microorganisms and form a unique ecosystem that breaks down waste. These ecosystems are capable of treating large quantities of wastewater in small spaces within short periods of time, in a small footprint, and using low amounts of energy.

The Knoerzer plant serves the needs of all Commerce Park businesses. However, it was designed specifically to meet the unique requirements of Acme Smoked Fish. In 2013, Acme was in discussions with several local governments—including Pender County—to select a site for its new $30-million mid-Atlantic processing facility. Acme chose Pender Commerce Park, in large part based on the County’s ability to implement a wastewater treatment system capable of treating the high-strength wastewater generated by the processing plant.

“This project demonstrates an outstanding example of engineering and construction excellence,” said Michael G. Mack, project manager with Pender County Utilities. The county owns the Pender Commerce Park and the Melinda K. Knoerzer Adaptive Ecosystem Wastewater Treatment Facility. At full build-out, businesses within Commerce Park are expected to employ approximately 2,000 people. All businesses in the park will utilize the adaptive ecosystem wastewater treatment facility. The $14.7-million facility was completed in June 2017 at approximately $870,000 below budget.