Green advances in water treatment

One thing keeps us alive, another keeps us from unpleasant misery. We turn the water on at the tap with complete confidence it will flow into a glass and be safe, even refreshing, to drink. At the other end of a certain cycle, we hit a lever and water our bodies have already used heads out of house, out of mind. So many things we take for granted would be mind numbing if someone put most of us in charge of providing water and sewer service for thousands of people. People we share a community with.

Bill Graham

Bill Graham

People used to share responsibility for these matters generations ago. Lucky was the family that had their own well, maybe even a long-handled pump to bring the water up, a process faster than a bucket. Many communities used to have community wells that all shared. Whatever ran or seeped into the well off streets and barnyards was part of life. Ditto conditions for those who drew water from the creeks. The test of water quality was the frequency of the trots. Spring branches, once far more common in Platte County before settlers and modern uses altered groundwater hydrology, were prized and savored.

Waste disposal was also more of a communal affair. Chamber pots were dumped outside, somewhere. You could wave to the neighbor when you saw them heading out to the small wooden shack placed out back at a strategic distance and hopefully usually downwind from the house. People worried more about wind direction in the old days for various reasons.

But now, we all live in relative luxury compared to our forefathers.

What’s blowing in the wind today is lots of politics that many of us find rather negative and discouraging. So when something positive appears, we better embrace and celebrate it.

Thus did I find uplifting the September issue of Treatment Plant Operator (TPO) magazine. “Natural Treatment,” said the headline on the cover, “Native Wetland Plants Treat Drinking Water for the North Texas Municipal Water District.” Or a how we do it feature highlighted on the cover: “Biogas to energy in Colorado.”

You might think I am joking, but I am not. Every now and then remarkable advances in engineering and science are strikingly positive. It is true that in our nation’s democratic system we enter a voting booth to elect fellow citizens to make policy that enables all of us to peacefully chase life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. During many of our board, commission and committee meetings at various levels of government, when problems with water and sewer systems arise, our elected officials turn to engineers. There are many types of engineers in civic service and industry, but let water stop flowing into our houses or the sewer systems back up into the basement, and you know what type of engineer is viewed as indispensable.

Platte County is growing rapidly regarding both housing and commercial business. It’s been that way for decades. Yet, much of the county remains undeveloped. There’s still time to preserve green space for parks, protect streams as combined parkways for trails and natural storm water drainage basins. There is time to be creative about how we handle tricky problems like sanitary and storm sewers.

One of TPO magazine’s feature stories this month is about a combination water treatment plant and parkway in Yorkton, Saskatchewan, called Logan Green. A trout pond with catch and release fishing is a centerpiece. Don’t laugh. I don’t think we need to go as far as a fishing pond, but the most amazing thing in the magazine is the ads for all types of computerized, motorized and cleverly designed equipment for various types of water and waste treatment.

I’m fascinated by things like AquaNereda aerobic granular sludge technology. There’s the Flex-Pro M-3 peristaltic metering pump for applying chemicals during water treatment. Another company has designed a heavy duty sludge pump with no rotors, stators, or lobes to replace.

I don’t know how it works, but I do know that blower evolution now includes the world’s first variable helix technology. Or, there’s integrally geared turbo blowers for aeration. The rotary drum thickener and ICS composting systems look complicated.

Lest you think all this is far away, the magazine showed a photo of Garney Construction workers, a company with longtime Northland ties, installing pumps in a conveyance station.

Engineers are mixing nature and science in innovative new ways to solve mankind’s age-old problems involving water coming and going. I’m hoping Platte County’s civic leaders, engineering consultants and developers embrace cutting edge and sustainable systems as growth continues.

Platte County in the future can be almost as green as what the pioneers found in the early 1800s, but far more convenient regarding life’s most commonly shared human needs.