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Friday, April 17, 2015

WATCH: Explosion in NY sewer sends manhole cover flying

Even for sewer professionals who spend their careers underground, there are countless unknowns lurking in the sewer system. Dangers are just as common.

As a Buffalo, NY news crew covers an underground fire, an explosion underground sends a manhole cover flying. Weighing in at least 100 pounds, it gives you an idea of the strength of the blast and the risks maintenance personnel take when they work underground.

Thanks to Scott Broski for the link.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

VIDEO: What causes that wonderful after-the-rain smell? Slow-mo video reveals secrets.

That familiar scent has a name: Petrichor.

But since being named in a 1964 report, the actual cause of the after-the-storm "earthy fragrance" had been little more than theory.

That changed in January when MIT researchers captured a specific raindrop phenomena on video. Scientists observed raindrops trapping tiny air bubbles as they hit the ground. BBC explains:
They say the bubbles then shoot upwards through the raindrop and erupt into a fizz, producing extremely fine liquid droplets or solid particles that remain suspended in the air as fog or smoke, known as aerosols.

The authors suspect that the tiny particles that released into the environment release the wonderful aromatic elements from the soil along bacteria and viruses stored within.


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

NEWS: What is water worth? "Business case" goes well beyond dollar signs / #CleanWater2015

One can not solve the world's water problems in an hour. But Edwin Pinero used his hour to highlight five components of real solutions to the world's biggest water challenges.

Pinero kicked off The City Club of Cleveland's 2015 Year of Clean Water speaker series, and he was a fine voice to do so. He's the Senior Vice President of Sustainability and Public Affairs of Veolia Water North America, a firm focused on water, wastewater, and energy resources and resource recovery.

The biggest issue we face, in his words: "We understand water is important," he said, "but we lack understanding of the connection between water and every other aspect of our lives."

Thursday, March 26, 2015

PROJECTS: About the Fairhill/MLK Green Ambassador Project in Cleveland

Known as the Fairhill-MLK Green Infrastructure Ambassador Project on the northeast corner of Fairhill Road and Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard in Cleveland, this functional and aesthetic project will control stormwater and reduce the amount of water reaching the combined sewer system.

Green infrastructure includes a range of stormwater control measures—plant/soil systems, permeable pavement or other forms of stormwater harvest and reuse—to store, infiltrate, or evapotranspirate stormwater and reduce flows to the combined sewer system. It's an integral part of Project Clean Lake.

Existing conditions at Fairhill-MLK
The Project includes construction of a large basin and installation of new, separate storm sewers along E. 124 Street and portions of Fairhill Road, Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, Britton Drive, Mt. Overlook Avenue and E. 126 Street. It will manage 17 million gallons of stormwater in a typical year.

Sewer District representatives have held three public meetings offering attendees the opportunity to not only provide their opinion on the project, but also choose many of the aesthetic features.

UPDATE: This pre-construction public-meeting slide deck was presented to the community March 25, 2015. Prior slides describe Project Clean Lake and related work; subsequent slides present greater detail on the design and function of this project.


NEWS: Could sewage be mined for gold? May also be great excuse to grow awesome beards.

Could human waste really be a source of valuable metals? Recent studies have shown potential, but realizing said potential is still a long way off in all likelihood.

The Huffington Post reported on a study that said human waste may be filled with microscopic particles of gold, silver, platinum, and copper, not to mention several other "nuisance" metals like lead.

More specifically, if these particles—measuring less than 1/100th the width of a human hair—are in human waste or at least entering the sewer system by other means, then they'd eventually make their way to wastewater treatment plants, according to studies, and could thereby be harvested for possible reuse, reduce the needs for mining, and also benefit the environment.

Working where we do, we asked a few of our experts.

"While it's an interesting idea," said our Westerly Wastewater Treatment Plant Superintendent Frank Foley, when asked if there was any chance we could be sitting on a literal gold mine in our collection system, "I’m not sure if we currently have information that would allow us to quantify the amount of precious metals in our ash."

Westerly Wastewater Treatment Plant, Cleveland
Ash is the byproduct of the incineration that manages the "biosolids," organic materials left over from the wastewater treatment process.

He continued: "Another key, stated in the articles is that there would be a cost to extracting the metals from the ash. That would also have to be quantified to determine if it would be worth attempting to recover any of the material." Research presented in Denver this week said the recovery of these metals using current technology "may not be commercially viable."

Translation: Waaaaay too expensive.

Precious metals like these are not in our treatment plant permit limits, says Senior Environmental Specialist Elizabeth Toot-Levy, so we don't monitor for them. That makes an assessment more difficult. And while we do monitor industries like plating companies to make sure they are not discharging metals to the waste stream, one we have spoken to in the past about gold plating stated it takes extra precautions to ensure that their precious products are not flushed away.

So could sewage be a future source of the metals that make their way into our cell phones and computers? Time and further study will tell. In the meantime, we'll keep our eyes on what does flow into our plant, because you never know what you'll find.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

PROFILE: From veterinary medicine to sewage treatment, here's how Christen "fell in love" with her unexpected career

A former lab analyst and now Wastewater Plant Operator, Christen Wood’s career path has led her from veterinary medicine to sewage treatment. We asked her about opportunities in Wastewater Operations.

How did you get into wastewater?

I sort of fell into it! The local paper ran a column on the “brain drain” in Ashtabula, why we weren’t able to get qualified candidates into jobs there. I wrote a thank-you letter to the editor for covering the topic, and as soon as the letter ran, the Ashtabula wastewater treatment plant called me and said, “We need you to apply now."

Thursday, March 19, 2015

#WorldWaterDay: If water is so boring that it's "no big deal," then that's exactly why it's a very big deal.

Photo courtesy Drink Local. Drink Tap.

Go ahead. Flush. Don't think twice about it.

Turn the tap. No big deal.

Start the laundry, fill your tub, wash you hands, whatever. It's just water.

The simple fact that we can consider a precious resource and the complex system it takes to bring it to and from our homes safely "no big deal" is exactly why World Water Day March 22 should be a very big deal.

What is World Water Day? World Water Day, established by the United Nations in 1993, was originally launched to promote to the importance of fresh water and bring attention to water-resource management and sanitation challenges around the world.

NEWS: Infrastructure "shouldn't be controversial," says President Obama in City Club of Cleveland Q&A

President Barack Obama addressed a crowd of 500 guests at the Global Center for Health and Innovation yesterday, focusing his remarks on the federal budget, middle-class economics and manufacturing opportunities.

But both infrastructure and environmental regulation made it into the President's comments as he welcomed questions from the audience after his speech.

"What has surprised me," said President Obama, when asked what has surprised him most since beginning his first term, "even though I had served in the Senate, was the continued difficulties in Congress getting stuff done that shouldn’t be controversial." He continued: