Fullscreen background image

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 Tip

Hi, I’m Howard and I’m here to provide you with green tips. Look for me throughout the site and check out my cool interactive games at the Kids Zone.