I’m a sucker for a plant tour. Such a sucker, in fact, that a mild day in March had me suiting up in reflective vest, safety goggles, and a hardhat for an hour-and-a-half tromp around Arlington County’s sewage treatment facility, the Water Pollution Control Plant (WPCP). (Also, I am the mother of a potty-training three-year-old boy. This is familiar territory.) My guide was Frank Corsoro, Operations Specialist. His job involves monitoring and controlling the processes that turn all the stuff that people flush down their toilets into clear water that is pretty darn clean. (Cleaner, in fact, than what much of the world is drinking.) Mr. Corsoro conducts tours of the plant to help educate the public about this facility that is so important to the health of Virginia waterways, including Four Mile Run, the Potomac River, and the Chesapeake Bay. If you like to eat crab cakes, you should care deeply about what goes on at the WPCP and places like it throughout the Ches Bay watershed.
Mr. Corsoro is a longtime sewage treatment process control guy. When he says he could talk about this stuff all day, I believe him. There is a lot to know. Raw sewage undergoes physical, chemical, and biological treatment processes. All the inputs and outputs of each process are constantly measured and monitored, to make sure the right levels of nutrients, oxygen, coagulants, bacteria, and minerals are present. Computers in the Operations Control Building keep all the systems running smoothly. Recent upgrades to the plant included a massive generator to allow business to continue as usual in case of power outages. Continue reading