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Wastewater Treatment: A Dirty Little Secret

interns at WWTP

Would you jump in this tank to save your friend if she fell in?”

This was one of the ques­tions my tour guide asked me dur­ing my visit to the Lit­tle Patux­ent Water Recla­ma­tion Plant. As I stared at the bub­bling, brown, mucky water, my first instinct told me to say “No, prob­a­bly not.”

Prior to this expe­ri­ence, I had never been to a waste­water treat­ment plant or even thought about the process of water recla­ma­tion. So when I found out that there would be an Exec­u­tive Intern trip to the Lit­tle Patux­ent Water Recla­ma­tion Plant, I was excited to learn more about the process and wit­ness it first­hand. As an Envi­ron­men­tal Sci­ence and Pol­icy major at the Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land, my intro­duc­tory envi­ron­men­tal sci­ence class men­tioned the process briefly with a few dia­grams, but it was not a very mem­o­rable lec­ture. How­ever, after vis­it­ing Lit­tle Patux­ent, my tour of the waste­water treat­ment plant is one I will never forget.interns at WWTP

Most peo­ple do not know what hap­pens when we flush the toi­let or pour some­thing down the drain. Now, I am one of the lucky few who do. To sum­ma­rize briefly, the process starts with the rak­ing out of major solids, such as toi­let paper, money, and even McDonald’s toys. Any­thing you can fit down the drain flows right into the plant. After that, what’s left is given time to set­tle and the sludge is scraped out. Even­tu­ally, the water flows into a tank that is mon­i­tored to pro­vide ideal con­di­tions for nat­ural bac­te­ria that start to break down major pol­lu­tants. Then, the bac­te­ria are killed using UV rays, and the water, now 99% clean, is released into the Lit­tle Patux­ent River.

Even though there were some over­whelm­ing smells and stomach-churning sights, over­all I was amazed by the tech­no­log­i­cal and bio­log­i­cal processes of the plant. Treat­ing waste­water is a dirty job that we tend to over­look, but it is vital to pub­lic health, pol­lu­tion reduc­tion, and water qual­ity of the Chesa­peake Bay. As a com­mu­nity, we would not be able to func­tion with­out the Lit­tle Patux­ent plant or the ded­i­cated peo­ple that work to keep it run­ning. I highly rec­om­mend that every­one tour the plant at least once in their life, so that you will never “flush and for­get” again.

Arlyn­nell Dickson
Howard County Exec­u­tive Intern
July 2014

Green Central Blog — Enter Stage Right

So … a new blog huh? Indeed the Office of Envi­ron­men­tal Sus­tain­abil­ity will be oper­at­ing this Live­G­reen­Howard Blog to talk about envi­ron­men­tal issues through­out Howard County and the work to cre­ate a cul­ture of sus­tain­abil­ity through­out. My name is Joshua Feld­mark – I am the Direc­tor of this Office and one of five writ­ers for this blog (I’ll intro­duce the oth­ers in a moment).

We did not start this blog lightly, and as a fairly reg­u­lar blog reader (mostly national but local as well) I real­ized pretty quickly that blogs in gen­eral pro­vide a fair amount of chal­lenges but a gov­ern­ment run blog has many more. Nobody wants to read a blog filled with infor­ma­tion you can get in a press release, newslet­ter or news­pa­per arti­cle. Most gov­ern­ment blogs seem to fall into that cat­e­gory and we are going to work hard to instead pro­vide broader con­text on the issues we are deal­ing with and talk much more about the why’s and less about the who what when where. For those of you blog nerds out there, think Orszag as head of CBO.

Addi­tion­ally, and this may just be a per­sonal pref­er­ence, think blog as story telling medium. Besides being a great way to give con­text, to explain the why, I just plain like hav­ing sto­ries told to me and believe that true of oth­ers. There­fore, the hope is that many of our posts will relay infor­ma­tion via the story.

Each of the blog­gers have spe­cific sub­ject areas we work on which will obvi­ously guide our post­ing but, as should be expected, we also have broad inter­ests and knowledge-bases not nec­es­sar­ily con­fined by our work­load. Besides me, the reg­u­lar blog­gers are:

Lind­say DeMarzo – Lind­say splits her time between the Office of Envi­ron­men­tal Sus­tain­abil­ity and Plan­ning and Zon­ing in the Resource Con­ser­va­tion Divi­sion. Lind­say is Co-Chair of Green­Fest, one of the authors of both the Water Resource Ele­ment and the County Green Neigh­bor­hoods checklist/guidance doc­u­ment, and the coor­di­na­tor of our green HOA program.

Laura Miller – Laura splits her time between the Office of Envi­ron­men­tal Sus­tain­abil­ity and Recre­ation and Parks in the Nat­ural Resource Divi­sion. She is pri­mar­ily the tree pro­gram expert and is respon­si­ble for new pro­grams like the 2,010 trees and well estab­lished pro­grams like Stream ReLeaf. She also has a back­ground in solid waste hav­ing worked for Howard County’s recy­cling divi­sion and the North­east Waste Authority.

Elissa Rei­neck – Elissa is new to Howard County Gov­ern­ment and is serv­ing as a Vol­un­teer Coor­di­na­tor. Elissa came in strong with the cre­ation of the 20-minute clean-up pro­gram and assist­ing local com­mu­ni­ties with clean-ups. She too has a waste man­age­ment back­ground hav­ing worked for Bal­ti­more County recycling.

Chris Rus­sell – Chris is Howard County’s new Energy Man­ager. Chris has a back­ground in energy man­age­ment by way of eco­nom­ics (as opposed to engi­neer­ing) and is charged with reduc­ing the County’s energy usage and over­all car­bon foot­print as well as guid­ing the com­mu­nity as a whole to do the same.

We will also occa­sion­ally have some guest blog­gers both folks within the gov­ern­ment and folks within the com­mu­nity so stay tuned for that. Finally, a word on com­ment­ing: We will, very soon, have mod­er­ated com­ments allowed on this site. Com­ments, who can make them and what they have to pro­vide before they make them, is a topic of lengthy dis­cus­sions through­out the blo­gos­phere, espe­cially of late in the local blogs. After much delib­er­a­tion we are lean­ing towards allow­ing anony­mous post­ing of com­ments but all com­ments will be mod­er­ated and approved. The aim is not to sti­fle hon­est free-flowing dis­cus­sion and most of the gov­ern­ment run blogs I have/do read do not allow com­ments at all. This was a com­pro­mise that we felt com­fort­able with.

I hope you enjoy, and of course you can always email me at jdfeldmark@howardcountymd.gov with any thoughts or suggestions.

Jd Feld­mark

Green Tip

Light soy candles.The oil byproducts in most candles can’t hold a flame to options like soy, since they burn longer and take less of a toll on the planet.