Friday, January 04, 2008

From Toilet to Tap

One of the reasons Roger and I moved to Washington was for the water. Not that it had any profound properties like magic elixirs, just the very fact of it. It rains in Washington. There is no water shortage. But now that we are considering moving back to California we are facing the prospect of coming back to a state that has to provide water for a population of nearly 38 million people.

Water. There's simply not enough of it to go around. But this post isn't about the coming shortages, the environmental crises. Nope.

It's about reclamation. I think it is a remarkably good idea to reclaim sewage and treat it so that it can be used to water golf courses, flush toilets, even irrigate agriculture. But, I don't think it should ever be used for drinking water. It sounds like a profoundly uncivilized and vile idea taking effluence and turn it into drinking water. Sorry. That's just disgusting.

I've learned that such practices are well under way in parts of the world, and yesterday's LA Times informed me that Orange County will be unveiling a state of the art reclamation plant that will be providing drinking water in a year. Here's how they're doing it:

Basically, the facility takes treated sewage, which would have been discharged into the sea, and runs it through an advanced filtration system.
The effluent is first pumped into the reclamation plant from the sanitation district's sewage treatment facility next door. The brackish water, which smells of deodorizer, flows into 26 holding basins equipped with 270 million micro-filters -- thin straws of porous material with holes no bigger than three-hundredths the thickness of a human hair.

From there, the water is forced under high pressure through a series of thin plastic membranes housed in rows of white cylinders. Next, it is dosed with hydrogen peroxide and bombarded with ultraviolet light to neutralize any remaining contaminants.

At this point, the water is free of bacteria, viruses, carcinogens, hormones, chemicals, toxic heavy metals, fertilizers, pesticides and dissolved pharmaceuticals.

Though it is good enough to drink, the scrubbing isn't finished. Once the state approves, up to 70 million gallons of treated water a day will be pumped into the county's giant underground aquifer. It will be cleansed further as it percolates through the earth to depths up to 1,000 feet.

"This is as advanced a reclamation system as you are going to get right now," said the director of regulatory affairs for the Assn. of California Water Agencies..."

Would you drink this? Is it just me, or does this seem insanely wrong?

Impersonal- It looks like Obama and Huckabee took the Iowa caucus. I don't think either of them will wind up on the the top of the ticket. Neither of them are electable. I think perhaps Iowa has finally been rendered utterly meaningless. As it should be.

Personal: My mother had an appointment with her primary care physician on Thursday. His interpretation of lab results from her emergency room visit in mid-December and her recent hospital stay was rather shocking and eye-opening. We have been seriously mislead about her condition. She actually may be experiencing congestive heart failure and needs to see a cardiologist on Monday to determine the cause of the fluid around her heart. Lab results also show that she has 30% kidney function. None of this was EVER reported to us in the hospital. Ah, American Health Care, the proverbial envy of the freakin' world, a lot of money for useless crap, like everything else in our culture. Grrrr.

Have a great weekend, friends.

Photo borrowed without permission. Chairman of the sanitation district board sampling the final product.

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