Recently, I had the chance to tour the Fishers Wastewater Treatment Facility. Led by the Assistant Director of Water Quality Division, Johnathan Valenta, we explored the facility and learned more about the city’s sanitary water operations.
Before my visit, I had no idea how important the wastewater filtering process was—in fact, I didn’t even know there was a filtering process at all! This tour helped inform me on the great work that Fishers Department of Public Works does to keep our water systems clean and the city running smoothly.
Step-by-step, I’ll take you through the process of treating wastewater and how the City of Fishers works every day to ensure its residents have a sustainable, quality collections system.
What is sanitary flow and where does it come from?
Sanitary flow comes from your home, including water from your toilet, sink, and dishwasher. This water travels through the pipes in your neighborhood and flows by gravity until it hits a lift station. The City of Fishers maintains 51 lift stations around the city.
The city encompasses over 400 miles of sanitary sewer; to put that in perspective, if you drive 400 miles northeast of Fishers, you will end up at Niagara Falls! The average flow is 7.5 million gallons a day, though the plant is designed to handle 10 million gallons in peak flow. All flow goes directly to the Wastewater Treatment Plant on Eller Road.
What does the sanitary flow treatment process look like?
There are several steps that wastewater flow must go through to be treated:
1. Once the water hits the lift station, it comes from an pipe and transfers to a grit tank. Materials like stones, rocks, and sand settle to bottom of the tank.
2. The inorganic material (materials that don’t break down) is separated from the organic flow (those materials that do break down), and the latter then goes to a primary flare pipe which slows and settles the flow. This allows for organic solids to settle at the bottom of the pipe.
3. After that, the flow is then distributed to eight tanks where solids are removed.
About 99% of the sanitary treatment process is filtering out the “sludge” in the water. Once it’s removed from the flow, it is stored in 650,000-gallon tanks with three mixers that keep the solids from settling. Additionally, some processed sludge is even used to make high-quality soil for farming! During this stage, bacteria “bugs” are added to the system to eat the organic solids. These bugs come from us! They are naturally occurring bacteria in our stomachs that break down food.
4. All flow is shifted to a final clarifier. Now that all solids have settled to the bottom, the water is clear. The final clarifier is in a building where UV rays that go into the water column disinfect the water.
5. The flow then transfers to cascade stairs that raise the oxygen level in the water from 4 to 10. This step is important in creating a healthy and safe environment for life to be sustained when it is later released into rivers.
6. Finally, the clean water is pumped back into the White River, which flows to the Wabash River, then the Ohio River, the Mississippi River, and ends in the Gulf of Mexico! Eventually, this filtered water will be used in your home.
What is inorganic material?
Even though you flush something down the drain, it may not always break down. “Whatever you flush comes here. Some of the stuff people flush, however, doesn’t break down—that’s inorganic material,” said Valenta.
These materials are called inorganic materials. This mainly refers to sanitary wipes which are often labelled as “flushable,” but are not organic and tend to clog pipes. The wastewater team then must manually pull the material out of the pipes. To avoid these issues, remember that there only 3 P’s that be flushed—Pee, Poop, and Paper!
To learn more about wastewater treatment operations, check out Fishers Department of Public Works website!
Keep Fishers Beautiful, the City’s annual celebration of volunteerism and sustainability, brings together residents, homeowner’s associations, local businesses, and organizations to support the vibrancy of our City and neighborhoods. To Adopt-A-Road or for information about upcoming volunteer opportunities please visit the Keep Fishers Beautiful website. For more tips about sustainability check out these blog posts.
Ally Marshall is a college intern for the City of Fishers in Public Relations and Community Engagement. She was born in Indianapolis and moved to Fishers in 2010. She will be graduating from Indiana University with degrees in Anthropology & Theatre, a minor in Arts Management, and will also be an alumni of the Alpha Xi Delta sorority. When Ally isn’t at City Hall or studying, she loves to watch movies, listen to music, spend time with her family and her crazy dogs, and try new international restaurants around town (her favorite is Bento Cafe)! She is so excited to be back in Fishers and work alongside such an innovative and vibrant city. You can follow Ally on Instagram or LinkedIn.