Thursday (05/03), we had an hour driving to Atchison to meet with Justin, assistant city manager. The four of us (Courtney – Mission Hills city manager; Ashley – intern; Khamla and I) enjoyed the view which changed from downtown to old Kansas City Airport to lush green farm field, river and creeks. Getting closer to the city, the coal power plant stood there with white smog came out from its huge chimney. This view, remind Khamla on his home country who will have mega project on Coal Power Plant. Then I share about the NGOs movement in our country to reject the new establishment of Coal Power Plant. Our country also have this ‘mega – electricity plant’ going on, but we as NGO doesn’t agree on that. First, we have more option to renewable energy, such as solar, wind, and geothermal energy – hey we head to green or sustainable development right! Secondly, we had never ending problems in hazardous waste management – in particular coal ash.
So we met Justin at city hall which have arranged for site visitation. We got 2 main site visits: the wastewater and water treatment plants which we loved to visit. Justin told us that they have big project in separating stormwater and sewerage, and its cost a LOT. I mean million dollars. He needs to inform and re-assure people even at the council level that the project is a mandatory one – based on Clean Water Act. This happens because the city struggle to increase their economic development after recession hit them. Trash re-cycling isn’t popular things to do, for environmental consciousness haven’t become common practice. The city has updated the water treatment plants with new technology – OZON injection – 8 million dollars update. The update cost residents 2% raised of their water bill. The total utility bill which consist of water, wastewater, and trash bill, and cost around 100 USD/ month.
We met Jim there, the water inspector who work alone at that time. Atchison water treatment plant pump directly from Missouri river, while other have the privilege to pump it in the riverbank where it has been filtered through natural ecosystem. The newly installed system, OZONE generator injected 3 times during the process to break down chemical such as pesticide (in particular atrazine) and pharmaceutical chemicals. The water treatment processes consists of: (1) injecting the ozone; (2) adding coagulant (alum and other chemicals) to settling down the organic and inorganic matter; (3) increasing dissolved oxygen (DO) to breakdown the organic and inorganic matter which is a byproduct; (4) Adding the chlorine to kill pathogenic bacteria and virus. The difference between Atchison water treatment plants with ours are: UV system and regular water quality monitoring on pesticide- nope we don’t have it.
The settling, adding of coagulant and chlorine is the same. We have more deteriorating water quality, and use blower to reduce the detergent concentration in the water – yeah an old technology and the scale of production wasn’t close to 50,000 gallon. Fifty percent of the clean water goes into Atchison industries (Brewery and Metal factory) and the remaining is divided into other activities. When I asked him, if there was an accident that makes them to close down the water treatment plants, he said not in days. Jim mentioned this accident where there is an oil spilling in the Missouri river. The company who responsible to it, quickly done the localization of the spilling so it didn’t spread out. Atchison water treatment plant was closed for 3 hours after they assessed that their intake is on the depth where the spilling won’t impact it. Few years ago, our Karang Pilang water treatment plant had to be closed down for few days due to incapabilities of it to treat the river water which was contaminated with mass fish kills.
After meeting Jim, we went to the wastewater treatment plant and it’s just 15 minutes driving. When we got out from our car , the ‘perfume’ was in the air. Yes, that perfume -the poop perfume. Our wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) tour was amazing. One thing that peaked my interest was when they told us that they used no chemical in treating it, which cause the water that discharge from the plants is in better quality than the river water. Their WWTP system is almost the same with the paper industry in our working site. The processes are: (1) settling in the biological matter; (2) separating the water based on their concentration – the clearer will move to the next phase; (3) aerated ponds to increase DO to breakdown organic and inorganic matter; (4) spraying to increase DO; (5) anaerobic ponds – fastening the breakdown through anaerobic process via bacteria; (6) UV room to kill pathogenic bacteria and virus. They maintain DO level around 14 mg/L (ppm). The challenge for the staff would be in winter and springs, where the input was highest and lowest and maintaining the DO level due to the input. The wastewater inspector share her thought about the WWTP scale. The city development and high maintenance of the plant, made her thinks that the small scale of WWTP which more suitable and easier to manage than this one.
The next place that we visited is a small water reservoir. Atchison have history of a massive flood which destroyed hundreds of house. After the tragedy occurred, the government built 23 small water reservoirs. As I heard from either Courtney and Justin, that the local government didn’t take the funding scheme to separate the stormwater and sewerage drainage at that time. Now, they have to fund it themselves and takes probably BILLIONS OF DOLLAR. In which will impact the resident for the next 10 years. Their utility bill will increase 200% in 10 year.
BONUS: I like to watch documentaries movie or program, either on natural conservation or famous people. One of the person that I watched was Amelia Earhart, the first woman who fly solo across the Atlantic ocean. When we visited the Smithsonian Air and Space museum, I saw her remaining flight equipment (glasses, and coat) which was found. She was lost and there were a lot of theory what happened to her in her last flight to Howland island. Atchison is where Amelia spent her childhood and you could find her house up in the hill and become historical building and also a museum.