Writing Contest Winners 2014-2015
Third Place, Grades 3-5
Grade 5, Galvin Middle School, Wakefield
Brianna Semenza, Teacher
Wendy and the Super Bowl Flush!!!
"Oh no!" Today was the Super Bowl and I was terrified. "I know," said Katherine. "It's going to smell so bad. We're going to have to work, like, the whole day!"
People are usually excited for the Super Bowl, but if you're a wastewater worker like Katherine and me you feel nervous. Why, you might ask? Because at half time, almost EVERYONE gets up to use the bathroom. There will be endless work for us tonight.
"Our lunch break is almost over, Wendy," said Katherine.
"Wonderful," I replied.
"Did you know that the amount of toilet paper used in the United States every year is 22,627 square miles?" she asked.*
"Whoa," I replied, smiling.
That night I was really not looking forward to all of the water pressure changes we were going to have to make with all of the flushing toilets at half time. Soon, a big gush of toilet water, waste, and toilet paper came through the bar screen. It caught solid objects while the murky water passed through. The water flowed to a large tank: the grit chamber. Grit started to be removed from the water. I made sure the machines were working properly and nothing broke down or leaked. That would be a mess. I also checked to make sure the treatment processes were working.
I was called to test some water for bacteria and parasites. There were some, so I used chlorine and other chemicals to purify the water. Then I had to remove the chemicals so the water would be safe for using. This all took about two hours. Afterwards, I monitored meters and gauges. I was glad I took chemistry in school, and learned how to purify water. I was also glad about that industrial technology class, so I could know how to read the meters and gauges.
I knew what I had to do next. The anaerobic digester heats up and mixes sludge without using oxygen. Bacteria eats the organic matter in the sludge and changes it into acids, water, and methane, an odorless gas. Then the sludge is squeezed through two moving belts to get out extra water. I walked to the belts and put on my latex gloves. I held a garbage bag out and the two belts emptied the dry sludge into the bag. I went outside to a big truck and opened the back. The truck was already filled with bags of dried sludge. This was the last bag. I put it in and jumped in the front seat of the truck.
I drove to a landfill specifically for sludge. People who were there helped me haul the bags out and dump them onto the piles of waste, grit, and dried sludge. I thanked everyone and wished them a happy Super Bowl day. I wished I could watch it, but I was busy at work. I'd just have to imagine Tom Brady thanking me for his clean shower after the big game. He'll need it!
* I got this fact (and most of my research) from: Coombs, Karen Mueller, and Jerry Boucher. Flush! Treating Wastewater. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books, Inc., 1995. Print.
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