Wednesday, January 05, 2011

City School Northampton: Week 9 - Water Treatment

I have been really remiss in not updating the last few weeks of City School. [Note, I wrote most of this months ago.] So here goes with a quick dump. Less thorough, but since I'm not paid to do this, you get a less complete product.

Perhaps I'll revisit this entry and edit it when I get a chance.

Last week, we visited Dispatch (also known as 9-1-1) as well as the Fire Department. This week we had a tour of the Northampton Water Treatment plant. This plant filters and treats clean water - mainly surface water - from reservoirs in Williamsburg where the City of Northampton owns land. The plant is quite new and only opened a few years ago. Here is some information on Northampton water. It is shiny clean a wonderful. I could picture a concert within the facilities. Perhaps some Water Music by Handel?

Since we had a tour, you will of course get a tour from me.

Northampton has a lot of fresh water flowing around. Below is a map of the Northampton water system. Many of the pipes are ancient - some are a century old.

The Water Filtration Plant is modern. Things are controlled remotely. There are rarely people turning big valves, even though there are many big valves in the plant. Most of it is run by relays and sensors. They opened the cabinet where they live. Each circuit board is one or more relays, sensors, or controls for valves. This cabinet is about 8 feet tall.

Once you have modern automation, then you can view, monitor, and manage things using a computer and software. The plant runs off of software that shows flow rates. Remember, this is a filtration plant, so there are various steps to the process. Also there are two main reservoirs, so they can decide how much water to draw from each.

They have spiffy labs. I'm sure that those jars of colored water are decorative.

Believe it or not, each of these faucets has water from a different source or stage of filtration. All are running all the time. I think you want to drink the stuff on the right.

Vats of chemicals. Remember this plant not only cleans water. It also adds chlorine. I have heard that there are folks around town who don't believe in adding floride to water. I don't know if this is true, but because of that we purchase floride pills for our kid to chew on nightly. I think I'm about to get on my soap box. Here I go. OK, it's quite a shame that we have to have a water filtration plant to clean water which came out of a reservoir. It's a shame there is not much clean potable water left. It's also a shame that they are required to add chlorine to the water. But there are stringent standards and that's what we are stuck with. If you think there is too much chlorine, you are probably right, but the standards require that there are certain levels in all the pipes all over town. This stuff eventually comes out of the water as a gas, so you need fairly fresh water in your area or you have low amounts of clorine. So just like a building with too much heat for everyone else because Apt 4J complained that it was too cold, the town has to over-chlorinate to make sure that a neighborhood which doesn't have many people in it and doesn't use much water has the right levels.

This sign seems silly, but there really is a 4 Million gallon tank outside the water filtration plant. That way if they shut things down, we'll have water for a while.

Everything labeled.

They kindly cleaned the carbon filters for us. Lots of brown stuff bubbled up. They sort-of reverse the flow of the water and then the stuff that was filtered out ends up being dumped outside the plant.

Everything in the plant is labeled like it was the Bat Cave. It adds to the atmosphere of orderly and cleanliness. The carbon filter for the plant is supposed to need replacing every year or two. It costs many thousands of dollars. It's like having thousands and thousands of Brita water filters like you have at home.

Things are sometimes broken down by biological activity, so they need to move things like air around within the water. Here the air goes to the left. Duh.

This would be the backup generator for the plant. The plant runs on electricity and if the power was out, it would still be important to run the equipment and get water flowing. In fact, at the time of this photo, this generator was broken.

As I said, electricity is important, so they rented a emergency generator and parked it outside the plant. A backup, backup.

When they flush the system, some it bubbles up outside.

The bad stuff ends up here. It's the stuff they filter out. Once one lagoon is full of sediment, they use the other. They take the solid stuff and haul it to the landfill. In principle, this stuff is not so bad, since it came out of a reservoir, but there you go.

After the tour we were told about Public Works. I took some notes, which I hope I transcribe sometime soon.

Well you've had your tour. Satisfied? If so, leave a comment.

If you'd like your own tour, you could try calling the Northampton Department of Public Works and asking. I think they could arrange one.

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