JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – The city of Jacksonville is marking a special milestone.

It’s one of the first cities on the east coast to implement a new way of cleaning up wastewater. And part of that process also includes preserving nearly 700 acres of Jacksonville’s forest.

There’s over 300 miles of pipe running through the forest, delivering treated waste water back into the natural environment in an innovative way.

The city started the process in an effort to keep from dumping wastewater into the New River, after a hog waste spill a few years ago.

Now, after the wastewater has been treated, it’s pumped from the lagoons to the irrigation lines out in the forest.

The sprinklers then irrigate the soil and the water travels back into the earth’s aquifers.

Deputy City Manager Ron Massey says the number one reason the city implemented this program is because it allows the water to be safely reused after it’s been treated.

“Most of the plants around here take that treated water and then dump it in the river,” explained Ron Massey, deputy city manager. “And the river heads out into the ocean, no longer really usable as fresh water. All that water we filter into the ground at the land app filters into the ground and recharges the aquifer that basically is our source of drinking water.”

There are about 21,000 sprinkler’s spread out in the forest. They release from one to five gallons of water per minute.

The irrigation happens all throughout the week.

The city is continuing to innovate and is currently testing out new aerators that will help clean out the wastewater more effectively and save about $150,000 per year.