- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 3, 2014

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) - The city of Missoula is expanding its program to divert some of the nutrients in treated wastewater from the Clark Fork River by using it to water trees.

The city planted more than 70,000 poplar trees in a 130-acre area near the Wastewater Treatment Plant on Monday, after giving the idea a try with a 1.6-acre pilot project in 2009.

It is legal to dump treated wastewater into the river, but the phosphorous and nitrogen it contains feeds algae and harms water quality. However, those same nutrients feed the fast-growing trees, which the city expects to harvest in 2027.

As the trees get larger, the city expects to be able to divert 10 percent of the sewer plant’s effluent at a cost much less than if the city had to install more equipment to meet tighter environmental regulations.

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