Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Field Trip

I thought I'd share our first field trip of this school year with you. Our city had an open house at the Water Treatment Plant and the Waste Water Treatment Facility. At the last minute I thought to call two friends (and homeschool moms) to see if they wanted to go with me. Here we are with our crew of eager learners. The Water Treatment Plant was a very quick tour...and the man giving the tours wouldn't take us back to the mechanical areas "because of all the children". But he did direct us to the room with coffee, cookies and lemonade. Umm...Thank You?

On the other hand, the man giving tours at the Waste Water Treatment Facility was wonderful. He took us on a tour of the entire place, taking a lot of time to answer questions.

The first stop was to show the children the lab. They were able to look at good bacteria under a microscope. The water on the counter is samples of influent water, effluent water, MBR effluent (which I can't remember the definition of) and water from our local Crow River.

Here is some influent water. (Our tour guide said it's the right consistency if it looks like thick chocolate milk. I'll never enjoy a glass of chocolate milk again.) This is water after all the solids and other foreign objects have been removed from the liquid waste. You know, anything that drains from the sinks or flushed down the toilet. For example, if we lived in town, that stuff would include little boys' underwear, matchbox cars, nails, screws, a pink watch, the occasional washcloth or hand towel, a cloth diaper or two, little girls' underwear, but not our many dead goldfish. Those would go on to the solids processing area.
This is the overflow area. If we experienced a huge rain storm or flood which overloaded the sewer system, the influent water would be held in this pond. I'm sure glad they had this sign up, otherwise someone like me who loves chocolate milk, might want to jump the eight foot fence and drink a gallon or two. Here is Duchess looking at the influent water splashing around under her feet. Want to know something disgusting? Some of that that chocolate milk looking stuff splashed up onto my bare foot. Note to self: Never wear sandals when touring a Waste Water Treatment Facility.
After the influent water has been churned and filtered, it becomes effluent water and will be drained into the river, but not before going under UV lights to sterilize the bad bacteria. Then those little buggers can't reproduce in the river and wreak havoc. They used to kill the bad bacteria with chlorine and another product that I can't recall. We were told this is much safer and better for the environment. Here is effluent water before being released into the river.
Here is our tour guide showing how he samples the effluent water. If you ever want an excellent tour guide, you must ask for this guy!
Those big domes in the background are where the solids (minus all the matchbox cars and other foreign objects) are pumped and stored during the breakdown process.

Then the solids are brought into the drying room and dehydrated. I know what you are all wanting to ask, "So, what do they do with those dehydrated solids?"Use it for fertilizer, of course. Here the boys looking at jars of dehydrated solids and photos of where they are spread. Right now they are used to fertilize area fields and our local golf course. And just so you know, solids are not only *poo*, but food items too...like the stuff that people wash down the drain after doing dishes and through their garbage disposals. Aren't you glad I pointed that out to you? Now those jars of dehydrated solids don't seem so disgusting do they?


  1. Great tour! Milorganite is one such fertilizer made from solid wastes..always use your plastis throw away gloves with any kind of fertilizer. I will pass on the chocolate milk too:)

  2. Very cool! I bet the kids learned alot! I sure did. But....don't you have your own septic out on the farm??

  3. Wow - they really gave you the full tour. How fun. I think that whole process is quite amazing, but gross.... I would have freaked at the brown stuff splashing on my foot.

  4. Frazzled Farm Wife,
    Yes, we have a septic out here on the farm. A whole town's waste is much more interesting than just ours, so we had to go see how it all worked. It was fun to explain to the kids that all the foreign objects we have flushed will never be seen again, but the ones from kids in town will be seen by someone at the treatment plant!

  5. Probably shows I'm a homeschooler too - but I thought this was cool! (Minus the sandal part. That wasn't so cool for you! :) But good to know!)

  6. Cool tour! Thanks for sharing it! Sorry about the splash, ick. I remember asking our septic pumping guy what they did with the stuff and they said they treated it and sprayed on local fields. I could have lived without knowing that! Cool thing about the UV lights, though!

  7. I loved taking my kids on tours like this! Nothing like some like hearted moms to join yo with their kiddos!

  8. Loved the pictures. The chocolate milk looked really yucky. Ewww.


  9. Oooo, my kids would LOVE that! Can you tell me how you arranged that tour?


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