Bodily Functions and an Infrastructure Tour

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

May 2nd, 2012

I had the chance to chaperone my daughter’s fifth grade class field trip this week; we went to the Renton Sewage Treatment plant. It was fun to see them learn a little more about what should and shouldn’t go down drains and toilets. The tour guides referred to this as “the 4 P’s”: poop, pee, puke and paper. And yes, the fifth grader’s had a ball freely talking about each of the “4 P’s”, the smells associated with them, and just the “stuff” that ends up there.

Even though it was the kids field trip, I had a hard time not asking more questions as we walked around the large plant and had various stations and holding tanks explained to us. All the sewage from Kirkland to Black Diamond ends up, is processed in about 12 hours and then piped to Puget Sound. All of our drinking water comes from the Cascades and all the sewage from the west side of Lake Washington ends up at West Point Treatment Facility at Discovery Park.

While I doubt either facility will become a leading tourist destination anytime soon, it was an interesting field trip, with something for everybody to learn. One statistic I heard is that 80% of the world’s population has drinking water that isn’t as pure as the water they discharge into Puget Sound after treating.

The trip also reminded me how we need to continue educating our residents, and reminding ourselves, on what should, and shouldn’t, be put down drains and toilets. Due to root growth, settling, or earthquakes over the years, many side sewer lines (which property owners are responsible for) are cracked or broken. These cracks or breaks increase the probability of blockages considerably. These blockages are almost always caused by debris that shouldn’t be going down the drain, and sewer back ups are unpleasant and expensive.