Friday, October 4, 2013

Waste Water Treatment Plant Operator Slogans

In touring two local waste water treatment plants (Crested Butte South and Gunnison), and working with many different operators, here are some of their similar comments:

-A lot of people in the waste water industry are getting close to retirement. Many of these operators have worked at the plant for thirty years or more, and are now reaching retirement age. This means there are a lot of positions about to open up locally. I imagine this is trend nationwide with the majority of operators close to retirement.
-These plants were both very small, which had many advantages. These operators had many more aspects of running the facility that they took part including maintenance, waste water treatment, lab work, and any other tasks as needed. Large cities tend to have operators "sit in a room and turn a knob," instead of being involved in all aspects of the facility. Working in a smaller plant provides more opportunities to learn new things, and less boredom.
-The job security is very stable "because everyone poops." Demand for these positions is not expected to decrease, which brings me to the next popular slogan "one way or another, that crap's got to get cleaned up". I appreciate the sense of humor of these operators!
-The water treatment licenses from testing (Distribution and Collection, waste water class licenses, drinking water class licenses, etc) can also be applied to other fields, such as certifying drinking water for restaurants, campgrounds, and other facilities. There are other water testing positions that require licensing, and it's possible to start your own business doing water testing.


Stages of Cleaning Waste Water and Introduction to Water Treatment Plants

Hello out there,
This is only my second blog for my internship experience, but I have a lot to say.
Here is what I have learned and experienced so far:
I have a much deeper understanding of the waste water treatment plant in Gunnison. Contrary to popular belief, the waste water treatment plant does not smell bad!

Here is a quick overview of the cleaning process:
There are four stages to cleaning water. This is standard for most waste water treatment plants, but there is some variation from plant to plant.
1. The first stage is pre-treatment, which is removing hard waste that does not include human waste such as paper towels, condoms, etc.
2. The second stage is introducing the bugs (micro-organisms) to the waste, providing an oxygen rich environment to allow them to digest the waste efficiently.
3. The third stage is clarifying the waste water, which can vary depending on the treatment plant. The purpose of the clarifier is to allow the solid waste and bugs to settle to the bottom (where they die), which is a slow process. There is a slow moving scraper, which keeps the water moving, and pushes oils and greases on the top layer of the water into a trap.
4. The fourth stage is cleaning the water by using UV lights. The lights do not kill the bugs, but destroys the ability for the bugs to reproduce. On a side note, the solid waste takes about 22 days to cycle through the treatment plant, and in that time recycles through the stages two and three over and over to make the water even more pure. The sludge removed from the water is then separated in a splitter, removing the water from the solid waste. The waste then is dehydrated even more, which is then turned into compost.

The treatment plants are essentially run by the bugs- they are doing all of the work to decompose the waste. The Front Range areas that were affected by flooding actually had to bring in live bugs in order to start the plants back up again since the bugs that were in the plants died off after eating all of the available food supply.
Go bugs!