Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Learning About Drinking Water

Guess what I just found out!  I learned that in a drinking water treatment plant, the water you drink (as my dad calls it "city water") comes from the ground!  It's ground water, only they treat it to remove any smells - sulfide gas, and add chlorine to kill any e-coli or other germies that happen to get in the water.  The water treatment operators have to hit a correct balance so that the water is not too chlorine-y but enough chlorine is in the water to make it to the end of the line.

To get rid of the sulfide smell, they either run it through a carbon treatment (the same as the water filter in a Britta) or aerate it...but that puts the smell in the air and people complain that it smells of rotten eggs.  If your water smells funky, like rotten eggs or like chlorine, all you have to do is either 1) run it through your filter or 2) let it sit out for a while and the sulfer and chlorine will evaporate out of the water.

If you imagine all the pipes it takes to get tap water to your house and every other house and apartment where you live, that's a lot of pipes!  And of course, they are all aging.  That leaves a lot of possibility for e.coli (which I am assured is everywhere) and other water critters to get into the water, so that is why the chlorine is added, to kill it all.

A person with their own well water doesn't have water that goes through as many pipes, but they do not have a water treatment and monitoring system in place.  I'm told they should have their water tested by the city/county (something), once a year.  I think that's smart anyways.  You don't know if your next door neighbors aging septic tank is leaking into the ground water you drink.  Or your own septic tank for that matter!  Or what if the farmer next door who sprays chemicals on all his fields, and those chemicals get swept into streams, lakes, and into the ground water.  Or you live in the woods and you and your neighbors are red necks, or you are not, and you have a forgotten about diesel tank leaking diesel fuel everywhere.  By testing your water, you will know what's in it. (duh.)  In these situations I always think about Erin Brockovich. She's pretty great.

I'm thinking someday I may go into government utilities (electric, water, wastewater, etc) as a job.  I think I would enjoy that.  I would want to be in the public outreach department or in the lab doing the testing.

For the longest time I thought that a drinking water treatment plant got their water from the waste water treatment plant.  That is not true, except in one town in Texas.  I think Bear Grylls lives there.



Anonymous said...

Last semester I toured Grand Rapids water treatment facility with my geography class and learned everything you just stated above. It was very smelly. This is Nato.

Db said...

That's great Nato! I'm glad to hear people are learning about that in school. I should have taken more geography classes.

Ryan Lakanen said...

Our class took a tour of the water treatment plant in TC in 10th grade enviro. science class. What stuck with me the most is how the water gets filtered through various materials to remove anything in it from large to small.

Mom said the other day that the city told her that her water is contaminated and this is probably why she had been getting sick. She said that she had been getting water from Meijer or that she needs to get a filter for the house (Brita or otherwise).