Turning Waste to Water

You've heard about the woes of TC's Septage Treatment Facility. But do you know the wonders of TC's Wastewater Treatment plant? Hint: It's regarded as one of the most advanced in the

nation. The TCBN takes you inside.

TRAVERSE CITY – Last night's leftover spaghetti, sloughed skin cells, human waste. You're probably like most people and don't think about what happens to these materials once you dump them down the sink, wash them down the drain, or flush.

So, the TCBN took one for the team. We donned hardhats and safety glasses and met up with project manager Scott Blair of CH2M HILL, the company the city contracts with for operation of the Traverse City Regional Wastewater Plant, to learn about what happens to the waste we make, and why it's a facility we should indeed be proud of. OMI, the company's operations arm has operated the plant since 1990.

Sewage is simply water with "stuff" in it, essentially everything that goes down your drains – stuff that should, and, yes, some stuff that shouldn't (see sidebar). Current average daily influent at the Traverse City plant is 4.5 million gallons, Blair says. It's about 1 million gallons higher in the summer. In addition to Traverse City, the wastewater plant serves parts of Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties.

The Wastewater Treatment Plant is sandwiched by Boardman Lake, the Boardman River and Hull Park. If you've used the TART Trail connector between 11th Street and the library, you've walked right past it…and likely smelled it. Not surprisingly, it is pretty foul-smelling at the first steps in the treatment process. But the majority of the foul air is contained under fiberglass covers and treated to control odor.

OMI also operates the Grand Traverse County Septage Treatment Facility on Ahlberg Road (next to the County Road Commission facility). It receives and treats domestic septage, domestic holding tank waste and some commercial waste. It also has been in the headlines a lot recently. For the latest developments about the facility's woes, check out page 22. BN