Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Finding Nemo...or Not

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of taking a tour of the waste water treatment plant in Vancouver, WA. For most of my life, I have lived in houses with sewer systems. Since moving to WA, we are now proud owners of a septic system; we try to respect our bacteria, and not overwhelm them. Seeing as it's just the two of us, our flushes, washing machine discharge, etc are much less than ever. Now that we don't have swim towels and multiple changes of clothing to deal with, we keep our impact low. But in a 'big city' like Vancouver, what happens between your toilet/sink/tub and the Columbia River????

Enter the Water Resources Education Center. There is a display area where you can learn all about the environment, and how important the water is. We joined our guide who took us through all the buildings that process the various stages of making the water clean enough to go back into the river. Some areas were more pungent that others, but none were any worse than running the HASH in Lagos, Nigeria along open sewers, or Bourbon Street after a wild Saturday night, never mind Mardi Gras. As for poor little Nemo, he never would have survived the straining process that takes insolubles out of the waste water.

My favorite was the area where the water is treated with UV light. The eerie green light was very cool. You can see my feet at the bottom of the picture.

I also liked the patterns of the water where the microbes worked their magic. The still water has microbes getting their mojo on. The aerated section is where they work their magic.

After the water is cleaned up, it goes back to the Columbia via wetlands that surround the center. 

Our outside guide Bev is a veteran of education programs with the school kids of Vancouver. Well, the ones whose schools still have money for field trips...This used to be a school education trip for all grade school kids. The Water Resources Education Center built their program to mesh with the school district's science curriculum. Now, cash strapped schools can't take advantage of this fabulous resource. This really needs to change.This area in the picture to the right is where they take kids to do water quality sampling. I hear they love stepping into the mucky water and overflowing their boots...Thanks to the Agriculture and Rural Caucus of the WA State Dems for organizing this. I learn so much from their events. Which reminds me, I must write up the Wolf Sanctuary tour from Sept!

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