Earlier this summer we had the opportunity to tour our local Clean Water Facility. This facility recovers resources and clean used water from area homes and industries to nearly drinking water standards!
I was intrigued; I had never toured a clean water facility before. The tour latest about 90 minutes and we walked through the whole process from when the water comes in from the homes and industries to when the water leaves the facility and goes into the Tualatin River.
When we lived in Vermont we had our own well, which supplied delicious water from the ground. We had the water tested and it was perfect. We got over 40 gallons a minute that meant we never had to worry about running out of water. Even during the hottest, driest months we never had a water issue.
We also had our own septic tank which meant every 3-5 years we would have to have it pumped out. Beyond that I never gave a thought to where the waste went after it was pumped.
Living outside of Portland, Oregon, it’s a different story. We have public water, which we pay for and our waste goes into public pipes that actually travel to the Clean Water Services Facility! It seemed that taking a tour of the facility would let us know exactly how our waste and water is treated and what happens to it.
What surprised me was how many other people were also interested in water! Apparently over 25,000 tour the facility each year! The day was slightly overcast but perfect for a tour. Our tour guide was engaging and full of information including the various scientific processes involved in treating the water. During the majority of the tour there were no bad odors, which really surprised me!
After aerating the water and removing the heavy solids the water is eventually strained out for further processing. You would never guess which two items do not decompose and must be manually pulled out? Wipes and fruit and vegetable labels. These items should not be put down the drain!
The other interesting fact is that the majority of clean water facilities release the water back into the large rivers at this point. However because the river that the water is released into is a much smaller river, the water continues to be processed and cleaned.
Inside we got to see the control rooms. We saw how the controls used to look for the older equipment.
Most equipment is now all controlled on a computer screen. They can check everything in a matter of minutes.
What happens to the solid waste? After processing it is turned into plant fertilizer! We were all given a sample to take home and use on our gardens.
Do you have a private well and a septic tank or do you rely on public services? If you have a clean water facility near you I would see if they offer tours. It was really very interesting.