What Happens After You Flush? SIATech Boyle Heights Tours Los Angeles’ Largest Wastewater Treatment Plant

BHIS_waterfieldtrip2_jan2016Have you ever wondered what happens to the dirty water from your shower, laundry and toilet after it goes down the drain? What about the runoff from lawns and gardens, and rainwater and car washing?

On January 7, 2016, students from SIATech Boyle Heights Independent Study High School were able to discover the innovative ways Los Angeles treats and conserves its water. As part of our Energy Career Pathway, students were invited to the Hyperion Wastewater Treatment Plant Facility in Playa Del Rey to experience what actually happens with wastewater. As you can imagine, our discoveries were fascinating!

Our first stop in the center was to the Headworks building. Anything and everything found in sewage ends up in the Headworks. It contains massive machinery that not only removes our feces from the water, but it also removes solids such as: feminine products, feces, plastic bags, and other unimaginable items not appropriate for discussion from the wastewater that arrives. Large bars and screens work around the clock to remove these large to small sized solids. This is known as the preliminary treatment phase. Our wastewater remains in this phase until it is ready to move to primary treatment.

BHIS_waterfieldtrip_jan2016Once it arrives at the primary treatment, sludge is removed and tanks are covered to reduce the unpleasant odors the wastewater contains. The water continues to move into a series of treatment phases until it is completely treated and ready to be pumped into the Santa Monica Bay! During the waters’ travel phases, we also learned that our feces is collected and heated for 12 days, so it can be reused as an energy resource to make electricity and as soil amendment / fertilizer!

Aside from touring the treatment phases, we also got to speak to different employees about their careers and day-to-day duties. We learned that jobs at Hyperion provide different career opportunities ranging from engineers, chemists, mechanics, biologists, machine operators, and more.

As we spoke to employees, we noticed that people really loved their jobs and loved the salary their job comes with. One of the machine operators shared the fact that a starting salary for his position is $90,000.00. He also shared that while a college degree is not required for his job, in this day and age an education background in wastewater treatment will increase your chances of employment.

This was by far one of the best tours yet! We learned so many fascinating facts about sewage, and best of all, we learned how to do our part in conserving our planet’s water!

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