Skylar Morrow, 2017 EEI Intern
The Central Wastewater Treatment Plant stands to be over 4,000 miles long, in pipelines, and manages to serve 1.25 million people in and around the city of Dallas. By serving at that magnitude, the Treatment Plant takes in about 450 million gallons of wastewater daily and is expected to clean all of it despite holidays, weather conditions, or dangers of the job.
Visiting the Central Wastewater Treatment Plant, my original thoughts constantly changed from what was originally believed about places like that to what they actually are. The first thing that comes to a person’s mind when thinking of a wastewater treatment plant is the smell of the waste, the overuse of harsh chemicals, and the amazement that with a little help from everyone, the process of cleaning dirty water can be sped up tremendously compared to a river on its own. Though, once we all met the workers, witnessed firsthand some of the tasks and processes that are completed, and hardly smelt the garbage first expected, I knew that there was so much more to learn about the Wastewater Treatment Plants.
Figure 1.Interns were able to see firsthand the different steps in the Waste Water treatment Plant
First off, the smell is barely, if at all, present; the prominent unpleasant smell did not even come from the Wastewater Treatment Plant but rather a neighboring company nearby. Later along in the tour, there was a more natural smell, which was actually appealing and tolerable, from the use of Chlorine and Sulfur Dioxide.
Though it was also believed that numerous amounts of chemicals would be put into the water in order for it to be cleaned and released back into the Trinity River, that was also proven wrong until the end. Throughout most of the process, the cleansing of the water is actually done with physical, mechanical, and natural methods. Most of the larger items are screened out of the water in a pretreatment, preparing the water for further screening and removal, clarifying, filtering, and further disinfecting treatments. Once most of the dirt is removed and the water is near pristine, certain elements and chemicals are streamed through the water, such as Oxygen, Chlorine, and Sulfur Dioxide to eliminate the remaining impurities that cannot be removed physically.
Figure 2. Most of the cleaning is a physical process using natural element as rocks and microorganisms that are present in the rivers.
Probably the only thing that did not change before or after visiting the Wastewater Treatment Plant was the astonishment that the murky, dirty water going into the plant can come out hours later with a brilliant blue tint and flow back into the Trinity River, only to repeat the cycle again due to the constant use. It of course is no easy task to do this in half the time it would naturally take, daily, but it is a reality that has been here for decades and will continue on as long as we are here to use up that same water.
Many of us have been oblivious to how much water we waste and tend to lose interest or concern in it once it runs down the drain or the toilet is flushed. Though this planet is over 70% water, it is finite and will run out if we do not change our habits now. By interning with the Environmental Education Initiative, EEI, I have been cultivated in the vitality of water and how it should be preserved as best we can and also given techniques to achieve this goal of water conservation. I am glad to have participated in this opportunity and learning experience, and I recommend that everyone participate in the goal to conserve water, not only for his or her self, family, or for this program, but for the world where we all live which continues to do so much for us.