WEF's membership newsletter covers current Federation activities, Member Association news, and items of concern to the water quality field. WEF Highlights is your source for the most up-to-the-minute WEF news and member information. 

May 2009, Vol. 46, No. 4

Top Story

Engaging the Public
WWTP education center aims to provide fun, foster greater understanding of wastewater treatment


Walk into the restroom at the Budd Inlet Treatment Plant in downtown Olympia, Wash., and select the toilet that appeals to you most. That’s right — each stall in the wastewater utility’s new education center will feature a different high-efficiency residential toilet. Then take the opportunity to read about its design and water-saving abilities.

Adding to the fun is the interactive computer game “Follow Your Flush,” which enables visitors to identify the travel path and time it takes for waste to reach the treatment plant from various locations, such as their home, school, or workplace.   

This image shows what the new education center being built at the Budd Inlet Treatment Plant is expected to look like once construction is complete. Photo courtesy of Lisa Dennis-Perez, LOTT Alliance. Click for larger image.












“We didn’t want to miss a beat,” said Karla Fowler, the LOTT Alliance’s community relations and environmental policy director. “There is always a chance to educate people about their water usage, even while they’re on the toilet. Absolutely.”

LOTT Alliance
The educational center is being built by the Olympia-based LOTT Alliance, originally an interlocal agreement among three cities and Thurston County, Wash., for the use and development of the local treatment systems. The alliance became an official organization in 2000 with the mission to “preserve and protect public health and the environment by cleaning and renewing water resources for our communities,” according to the alliance’s Web site.

The alliance’s $18.25 million, 2230-m² (24,000-ft²) expansion of the treatment plant not only will provide cohesive office space for staff but also will supply a state-of-the-art education center designed to teach both adults and children about water reuse and water conservation techniques. The project also will include an extensive upgrade for a water quality laboratory. The project is largely funded by connectivity fees. Currently, the plant serves 93,600 people in the cities of Lacey, Olympia, and Tumwater, Wash.

“People have traditionally been happy not to know what happens when they flush the toilet, and people in our industry have been equally happy to stay behind the scenes,” said Lisa Dennis–Perez, LOTT Alliance public communications manager. “But now is the time to have a public face. We want the public to know what it is we do, support our activities, and understand the importance of the service we provide.”

Education Center for Both Children and Adults
The education center, expected to be completed by spring 2010, will include various interactive games, exhibits, a career center, and classroom. The alliance is going beyond its own backyard and partnering with the Hands On Children’s Museum (Olympia), which will neighbor the treatment plant, to provide water education geared toward younger children.

The educational facility’s topics geared toward older children and adults include the importance of water conservation, the public’s role in preserving this resource, the science behind wastewater treatment, and careers in the industry. /assets/0/86/108/668/773/774/22552/ddc5b781-b232-4e86-a25f-ed189a2c0245.jpg


Pictured right is an informational graphic that describes the Budd Inlet Treatment Plant and its sustainable features. Photo courtesy of Lisa Dennis-Perez, LOTT Alliance. Click for larger image.

Expecting a Return on Investment
The LOTT Alliance believes that the educational center is a sound business decision, as it will promote water conservation, which translates into flow reduction for the wastewater system, which would delay the need to add increased treatment capacity.

According to Dennis–Perez, the educational center provides a great return on investment, “since building each gallon of capacity costs approximately $20.82, and spending money on education to motivate water conservation ultimately costs less.”

Another primary reason for building an interactive education center is to spark interest in the field. Nearly 30% of the LOTT Alliance’s work force will be eligible to retire in the next 10 years. Since wastewater treatment isn’t traditionally thought of as a career path, the plant hopes to gain the interest of the next generation while spurring greater support from the community.

“We’ve been providing tours for years, but we wanted more,” Dennis–Perez said. “Our board was dedicated to creating an all-encompassing educational center with the idea that LOTT can help change the tide of the industry. The center is fun, interactive, and engaging. We know people will walk away with an increased understanding of the industry and their role in the environment.”

Incorporating Green Design
In addition, the plant is striving to be the “greenest” in its league. The new building will utilize a passive solar design, a living roof, and a reclaimed-water feature that will stream through a public plaza. This water feature will be surrounded by educational signs highlighting the Class A reclaimed water, all with the intent to draw people to the LOTT Alliance’s educational center for more information.

Dennis–Perez expects the educational center to thrive, drawing on its current relationships with schools and local nonprofits, as well as advertising through its partnering municipalities. The utility plans to offer a variety of tailored courses and workshops for students, featuring guest speakers from local water utilities, nonprofits such as People for Puget Sound (Seattle), and environmentally focused community groups.

“As a wastewater treatment plant, we have a responsibility to our environment,” Fowler said. “It’s not enough to simply state your mission. This is an opportunity for us to make a real difference in our community and take our role to the next level.”

— Ashley Jordan–Nowe, WEF Highlights
Hippo Finds Home in African Wastewater Treatment Works

A view of the Rondevlei Nature Reserve. Photo courtesy of Penny Glanville, manager, Rondevlei Nature Reserve. Click for larger image.
 /assets/0/86/108/668/773/774/22552/b82fd088-caba-41fd-8036-6c7302a82223.jpg A hippo named Zorro has found a temporary home at the Cape Flats Wastewater Treatment Works (WTW) in Cape Town, South Africa. In early February, the 800-kg (1764-lb) male hippo escaped when fencing was stolen from the southern section of the Rondevlei Nature Reserve. The hole in the fence was closed within 12 hours, but the 4-year-old hippo took the opportunity to move away from the herd after being attacked by his father. 

“Hippos are extremely territorial, and adult males often attack or kill juvenile males that challenge their dominance,” a City of Cape Town press release says. “Zorro will be relocated to a new site,” said Penny Glanville, manager of the reserve. “He can not be returned to Rondevlei Nature Reserve, as his father, Brutus, will continue to attack him, which would result in Zorro attempting to escape again.” 
Zorro's father, Brutus, is one of the five hippos residing on the Rondevlei Nature Reserve. Photo courtesy of Penny Glanville, manager, Rondevlei Nature Reserve. Click for larger image.
Zorro has made his home in a WTW water retention pond that is used to filter out Escherichia coli in processed wastewater, Glanville said. The area around Zorro’s temporary home is occasionally used by wastewater treatment works staff, conservation staff, and fishermen, but people in the area have been notified about Zorro, and he is being monitored daily. Conservation staff members are feeding Zorro the plant lucerne to get him used to the food which will be used as a bait to move him.  
Rondevlei Nature Reserve staff members stand in front of the one-way funnel created to bring Zorro back onto the reserve. Photo courtesy of Penny Glanville, manager, Rondevlei Nature Reserve. Click for larger image.

WTW is part of False Bay Ecology Park. The wastewater treatment works provides recreational areas for fishing and hiking, as well as habitat for   birds and other wildlife, according to Cape Town’s False Bay Ecology Park brochure. The city is a “hotspot for biodiversity, housing many critically rare and threatened plants and animals,” another Cape Town press release says. The Rondevlei Nature Reserve is one of the city’s 24 nature reserves. 

The capture structure during construction. Photo courtesy of Penny Glanville, manager, Rondevlei Nature Reserve. Click for larger image.

In early February, reserve staff installed a one-way funnel in the existing reserve fencing to encourage Zorro back onto the reserve, but he did not take the trip. On Feb. 16, staff began installing a fence to prevent the hippo from leaving the area and constructed a gate to prevent him from accessing public areas. Staff then began installing an electric fence along the 1.5-km-long area around the retention pond, Glanville said. After being contained, the one-way funnel was removed, and on March 10, the capture funnel was constructed. If Zorro cannot be lured into the capture area with the bait, an active capture is planned, a Cape Town press release says. 

About Rondevlei’s Hippos
The Rondevlei Nature Reserve is home to five hippos, including Zorro and Brutus. Brutus is a male approximately 31 years old. There also are two adult females, Palaborwa and Chleo, and a 3-month-old calf. The hippos in the reserve are the only hippo population in the city, an area where hippos were once numerous, the release says. 

— Jennifer Fulcher, WEF Highlights
Access Water Environment Research Through JSTOR

Users at participating institutions now can access back issues of Water Environment Research through JSTOR, a nonprofit online digital archive. Browse, search, view, and print full-text PDF versions of all the articles from the Water Environment Federation (Alexandria, Va.) publication, even those that appeared under the publication’s previous titles:

  • Sewage Works Journal (1928–1949),
  • Sewage and Industrial Wastes (1950–1959),
  • Journal of the Water Pollution Control Federation (1959–1989),
  • Research Journal of the Water Pollution Control Federation (1989–1991), and
  • Water Environment Research (1992 to present).

Students, faculty, and researchers affiliated with academic and nonprofit research institutions that have a site license can access the JSTOR archive at www.jstor.org.

 /assets/0/86/108/668/773/774/22552/158c4599-1b33-4c94-924f-8251fbcb431c.jpg Water Environment Research is part of JSTOR’s Life Sciences and Biological Sciences Collection. The Life Sciences Collection is JSTOR’s largest, with more than 5.5 million pages. Working with more than 580 publishers, JSTOR currently preserves more than 1000 academic journals in nearly 50 disciplines. The organization continues to add international publications and special collections while expanding access to its database.

“With a back run that spans over 70 years, WaterEnvironment Research greatly enhances JSTOR’s coverage of the aquatic sciences discipline,” said Mary Pugh, JSTOR’s publisher relations assistant. “[JSTOR] collaborates with such organizations as the Water Environment Federation to achieve its objectives and maximize the benefits for the scholarly community,” she added.

Those interested in accessing the JSTOR archive or adding a collection should recommend that their institution’s librarian contact JSTOR Library Relations at participation@jstor.org or (877) 786-7575. For more information, see www.jstor.org.