Apparently, the theme for this week in my life has been poop. At least so far…
Yesterday and today I took my AP Environmental Science students (yes, I teach high school science) to the North Haven Wastewater Treatment Facility, which my students dubbed “the poop plant.” I took some pictures, but I’m not sure anyone would like to see them.
Last night, Ed brought home a truck bed full of cow manure from his parents’ Scottish Highlanders. We spent the next hour or so shoveling manure into our future vegetable garden. I also took pictures then, but I’m again doubting that anyone wants to see them.
Finally, I’ve been emailing with my friend Jessica, a.k.a. Green Mama, about her choice of diaper: the eco-friendly, flushable g-diaper. I became interested after our field trip and learning what can and cannot be put down the toilet.
So what have I taken away from all this? The beauty of the nitrogen cycle and other biogeochemical cycles. Our wastes and the wastes of animals are a great fertilizer for the rest of the natural world. It’s the decay that makes the wastes usable, thanks to bacteria. Wastewater treatment is biological, meaning bacteria is specifically grown so that it takes the ammonia and nitrates out of the water. All that we have to do is skim out what’s not supposed to be there and add oxygen. Of course we can’t release the treated water with high levels of bacteria, so it is first exposed to UV rays, the same as the ones used in tanning beds, to sanitize it. A much better option than chlorine. The cow’s manure is also decayed by bacteria. The heat produced in this process (teacher moment: it’s exothermic!) kills off the bacteria. So these otherwise dangerous wastes become the nutrients that the plants, the base of the food chain, need.
Of course I could go on and on about beneficial bacteria, but I don’t want to take away from the topic at hand.
We’ll see where the rest of the week takes me…