Sunday, September 5, 2010

The grosser side of Antarctica...

So, as it turns out, the janitor staff took a tour of the Waste Water Treatment Plant last week. I'm sure many of you have been wondering, "How do they get rid of their waste water?" Well, it is all dumped into the ocean, but only once it's been through a thorough cleaning process that leaves it as clean or cleaner than the ocean water. So, since a picture is worth a thousand words, here goes. Enjoy! ;)

As soon as we walked into the treatment plant, we all noticed the nasty odor. Larry in particular couldn't stand it. Since the tour was technically optional, Larry decided to go clean his dorm instead. :)
Our tour guide shows us some of the stuff that gets gunked up in the works from time to time. He called himself Poobacca.

These pipes are where all the wastewater from the station flows into the treatment plant. Inside these tubes are slicers and grinders that remove as much solid waste (mainly paper products) as possible.

Here's where the water comes out after the solid wastes have been removed. Any solid matter that is still in the water at this point has to be removed by hand. Eeeewwww...

After as much solid waste as possible has been removed (both by machine and by hand) the water sits in this tank for a couple of days while the bacteria in the water breaks down everything into organic material. This bacteria is not added; it comes from the people's poo.

Here I stand, next to the stewing, nasty water.
This is my coworker Edwina. I tried to get her to do a pole dance, but she was afraid she might fall in.

This is my coworker Kevin, who seems to really be enjoying the nasty water. A bit too much, perhaps?

And here's my supervisor Justin. He's the head of janitorial staff and the one who arranged for the tour to take place. He looks like he's getting a bit tired of the nasty smell.

Once the nasty water stew (right) has processed long enough, it goes through a filter area (middle) that removes the little bit of solid waste remaining and allows just the water to pass through (right).

After the water has finished processing, it is subjected to several hours of UV radiation. This kills 95% of the bacteria in the water before it is sent out to the ocean.

Here's a bucket of solid waste that was sitting near the water processing tanks.  This all had to be removed by hand from the water. Eeeeeewwwwwww...

Here's another bucket of solid waste removed by hand. This one has plants sprouting on top! You know what they say-- one man's trash is another plant's treasure. 

At the end of the tour, Poobacca put a drop of water from the end of the process onto a slide and let us look through a microscope to see all the little bacteria and other creatures living in the water. Very fascinating. Needless to say, I'm happy I don't have this job and I'm very appreciative of Poobacca and the other people who work to clean our water. I hope you enjoyed touring the Waste Water Treatment Plant as much as I did. It's too bad I couldn't upload the odors for a more complete experience. ;)


  1. Please tell Poobacca and the rest of his team that they are totally admired and appreciated.... I'm from a city that dealt with cryptospiridium!

    Thanks for the detailed reporting, Joseph!

  2. Okay Joseph, that makes having to dig a cathole on a backpacking trip seem extremely benign... Janine

  3. Joseph - love the piccies of Antarctica, but could have done without the Waste Water plant. It was like a train wreck, though - horrible, but you can't not look. Can't wait to see some pics after the sun is up more. What are your temps like now? Hugs! Bev in Boulder ps. I chose the Anonymous profile because I don't know what any of those others are. Bev, the Technotard

  4. well, technology sure has come a long way. we got the microscopic ipods, the 3-d high def plasma tvs, the only thing left is scratch and sniff computers...haha

  5. hey -- if you winter you can volunteer to help clean out the tanks. Poobacca drains most of the water and then you go down with buckets and shovels to remove the... clumps!

  6. LOL! Yeah, I think I'll pass on that one. But I hope I'll get to see you for the winter, MC! :)