R2E2 Digesters

Wisconsin Academy magazine features NEW Water

December 7, 2022

Front Cover of Wisconsin People and ideas Magazine 2022NEW Water was featured in Wisconsin People & Ideas, the magazine of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, in an article called “Making Waves from Wisconsin: Leadership in Clean Water.”

The article text is copied below. To learn more about the magazine, please visit: Wisconsin People & Ideas (wisconsinacademy.org)

Making Waves from Wisconsin: Leadership in Clean Water

People driving across the Leo Frigo Bridge into Green Bay have a beautiful view of the Fox River, the Bay, and two 100-foot high, salmon-hued cylinders that represent sustainability in action. Those cylinders are anaerobic digesters at the Resource Recovery and Electrical Energy facility, or R2E2 , containing microbes that convert organic matter in wastewater into methane gas. The gas then fuels electrical generators for NEW Water, the brand of the Green Bay Metropolitan Sewerage District. The digesters meet about half the electrical needs of the facility, while also recovering heat, saving money, and reducing the utility's carbon footprint.

DJI_0078According to NEW Water Executive Director Tom Sigmund, recovering the resources in wastewater is a critical tool for solving water issues. This visionary approach to water issues is one reason the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) tapped Sigmund to serve as new President this year.

In another innovative use of wastewater, around 70 waste­water treatment utilities in Wisconsin are participating in a study that helps track community levels of infection from viruses such as COVID and flu by testing samples of local wastewater. 

In 1970, Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson founded Earth Day, and the Clean Water Act followed two years later, initi­ating profound reforms to improve and protect water quality. However, much of the national infrastructure built on the heels of the Clean Water Act is reaching the end of its useful life and is in need of upgrades that could help cope with both water scarcity and unprecedented storm surges. "We need to take advantage of increased federal funding to help resolve some of these challenges and remind our elected officials that this funding must be increased significantly to adequately address the needs of our sector," Sigmund said.

Meanwhile, with initiatives such as the Freshwater Collabo­rative (a partnership of Wisconsin's 13 public universities), the establishment of a National Estuarine Research Reserve on the bay of Green Bay, and resource recovery facilities like NEW Water's R2E2, Wisconsin continues the crucial work of studying and protecting our waters and their uses. 

- from Wisconsin People & Ideas, the Magazine of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters Fall 2022

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