September 27, 2006

The Big Here 04: When You Flush Where Do The Solids Go?

This continues a series of ruminations, discussion on method, and answers to Kevin Kelly’s The Big Here, a query and challenge to know the space we live in, in its shape and relationships.

4) When you flush, where do the solids go? What happens to the waste water?

I live within the sewer district of the LOTT Alliance, which, according to its Web site, provides:
wastewater management and reclaimed water production services for the urbanized area of north Thurston County, Washington. Its four government partners (Lacey, Olympia, Tumwater and Thurston County) jointly provide programs and facilities serving a 23,000 acre area and more than 85,000 people. The LOTT system currently includes a central Treatment Plant (the Budd Inlet Treatment Plant), the Budd Inlet Reclaimed Water Facility, major “interceptor” sewer lines, and three pump stations. Services include flow management, long-range planning, financing, and design and construction of capital facilities. A Reclaimed Water Satellite Plant is currently under construction.
I have always lived in an area served by sewers, rather than septic systems or some other, more primitive methods, though I recently realized that my family’s house on Whidbey Island has a septic tank. It makes it easy to ignore what happens when I flush.

All of northern Thurston County’s “wastewater” is piped to a treatment plant near downtown Olympia, where it is treated and then “discharged” into Budd Inlet. Some of that treated water, a million gallons a day at present, is further cleaned and used as reclaimed water for irrigation and other purposes.

This topic is fairly timely, even so, because of a recent rash of sewer line extension and connection activities in my neighborhood. Last summer, the utility ran a connector line 0.7 miles up the arterial that serves my neighborhood. Once the construction and the attendant traffic snarls were completed, I appreciated the slick new road surface and wider bike lane on the street, but I wondered at the time about the timing of the extension.

This summer, I got my answer, with a major development going in less than a quarter of a mile to the east, just north of 14th Ave NW. They connected the sewer line to that new connector just this week. In addition, several smaller developments have gone in to the west, also along 14th Ave. And, this week, we got a flyer (PDF) in the mail announcing the start of construction on a new pipeline to the west, along 14th Ave.

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