Streamline - Summer 2011 - (Page 23)

Why Did The Paramecium Cross The Road? What happens when 10 kids and one newspaper reporter visit the wastewater treatment facility? BY FLORENCE BARRETT Editor’s Note: Much has been written in the North Fork Journal about the Broadway Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility, formerly owned by SIL. Most readers are probably familiar with some of the facility’s history: the SIL lawsuit, environmental issues, Broadway’s acquisition of the facility, and New Market’s hook up to WWTF, which also treats wastewater from two poultry plants and Timberville. This is the second in an occasional series about the facility. TIMBERVILLE – WHO better to tour a wastewater treatment facility with than a group of kids? And I knew just the youngsters to ask – members of the Plains Boys and Girls Club. After meeting them in December, I knew they were a bright bunch of students. CJ Ritchie, the club’s event and community outreach coordinator, was up for the trip and invited me to meet with the students before the tour. The kids made a lot of jokes. You know, things like, “We’re taking a tour of the poo poo palace” and “We’re going to the honey wagon.” They also said “eewww” a lot. No one says “eewww” with more syllables and feeling than a kid. But they were also genuinely interested. “It’s gross, but it’s kind of interesting,” said Emily Lam. “It’s bittersweet.” The WWTF employees – facility superintendent John Coffman and staff Lee Grieco, Ray Mohler and Aaron Haberstroh – and Poly Tec representative Mike Dinges were just like the kids. As the students filed off the bus and stepped onto soft ground: “Watch where you’re stepping!” The students jumped sideways. The staff guffawed. Joke Number One. John and his crew took us to the first part of the process where a big screen takes out large debris –things we should NOT flush down the toilet. Aquarium fish sometimes appear, but John said that’s not so bad. “You may have found mine,” Autumn Craft told John. “When he died, I flushed him.” Our tour took place on a particularly odiferous afternoon. As the students covered their noses with hands, jackets and turtlenecks, John explained that the plant treats more wastewater from poultry processors on the weekdays. The smell from this kind of wastewater was unpleasant, to say the least. Domestic wastewater from houses and businesses, we discovered later, isn’t that bad. Kaitlyn Killen tentatively asked if the smell would stay on us for a long time. “Oh no,” John assured her. “In three months, you’ll be just fine.” Joke Number Two. Next stop was the “five-stage biological nutrient removal system,” which I call the “large lagoon.” John told us it was where the bugs, also called biomass, treated the water. “Are they big bugs?” someone asked. “They’re this big,” John said, holding his hands two feet apart. “They’ll jump out of your pocket.” The students jumped sideways – again – at Joke Number Three. The bugs are actually microscopic, John said. These microorganisms are what make the water look brown, Ray explained, before repeating the staff’s favorite analogy – “brown like chocolate milk.” Eeewwwww to Joke Number Four. John told us how the biomass reduces the nutrient discharges by removing the phosphorus and converting the ammonia to nitrogen gas. “Who knew there was so much science?” Autumn said. Kaitlyn looked out over the lagoon at two small boats used for maintenance. “If you really squint your eyes, it looks like the beach and boats,” she said, looking at me. “You should write that down.” Dutifully, I wrote it down, then squinted. Kaitlyn was right. It did look like the beach! Our next stop was the clarifiers, a big hit with the students who clambered up the walkway steps to look at the mechanical arm that separates the sludge/bugs and settles them to the bottom. However, Michaela Jenkins didn’t clamber up the stairs because “I don’t go on those things.” 23

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Streamline - Summer 2011

From the President
From the Executive Director
The Water Tastes Good in Western Virginia
Virginia WARN, Help in an Emergency
Uranium Mining
Proper Disposal of Pharmacy Products
VELAP: Where Are We Now?
Why Did the Paramecium Cross the Road?
Anger in the Work Place: What It Really Costs You
Litigation and Water Wars
Hydrant Flow Testing–Data You Need
What A Ride!
Conference 2011 Highlights
Throwing My Loop
eLearning Benefits
Membership Application
Do You Know What Your VRWA Benefits Are?
New VRWA Benefit
VRWA Mailbag
Welcoming New Members
Training Calendar
Board Of Directors
VRWA Committees
Index To Advertisers/ Ad.Com

Streamline - Summer 2011