Polk County launches pilot project to see if wastewater can be cleaned and turned into safe drinking water

Polk County is one of the fastest-growing places in the entire country. But with growth comes challenges, including how to keep up with the ever-increasing demand for drinking water.

Polk is launching a joint project with Southwest Florida Water Management District to see if the county’s wastewater can be cleaned up, at a reasonable cost, to make it safe to drink.

The actual project will start next spring, when a new treatment plant, now under construction just outside Lakeland, will be complete and ready to go into action.

The goal will be to process 1.5 million gallons of water a day.

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"By the time it goes through this process, there will be nothing in it that anyone could have any objection to," Tamara Richardson, the Director of Polk County Utilities, told FOX 13.

When asked if she would drink it herself, Richardson replied, "Absolutely -- and I have."

The process is already being used elsewhere around the state and the county. It is even being used on the International Space Station.

If all goes well, and county commissioners give their approval, Richardson says the wastewater to drinking water could be pumped into residents' homes in eight to 10 years.