Flush. It’s gone, never to be seen or thought of again. For some it may be difficult to talk about or even think about what happens to the waste one’s body produces.
Like making a quarter disappear in a magic trick, it is imagined that one’s waste disappears as well.
If one knows the first thing about magic, that would be that it is not magic but indeed a trick.
The Environmental Club set out to expose this trick by taking its members to the sewage plant located on Stony Brook University’s campus.
The event coordinator for the club, Jane Karetny, came up with the event idea after she found out a professor from the sustainability program took his class to visit the sewage plant. Karetny says it is important to understand the process of sewage.
“By viewing ones effects on the environment one finds himself staring at what is the affect of his own actions and that creates a sense of urgency and responsibility,” said Karetny, a sophomore majoring in environmental studies.
The sewage plant sits by the north entrance of the campus. Since 1989, the plant has been removing harmful constituents from the wastewater. Between 75 to 80 percent of the wastewater comes from the university’s campus and hospital. The other 25 percent comes from residents south of the campus.
“It’s alive,” said Eugene Brewer, acting director of operations for the Suffolk County Department Public Works, Division of Sanitation.
Brewer is referring to the sewage water’s being processed biologically instead of chemically.
“Naturally controlled organisms with strict control of the aeration,” said Brewer, explaining how the plant treats the wastewater.
The wastewater is processed in a circular basin called an oxidation ditch. Microorganisms that naturally develop in the sewage break down organic material, which then forms into activated sludge. The treated water is sent to a settling tank, where the activated sludge is separated from the clean water.
Once the sludge is separated, the water is then pumped into the Port Jefferson Harbor and Long Island Sound.
The ditch can process up to 2.5 million gallons of water a day. It currently cleans an average of 1.9 million gallons while the academic year is in session. According to Brewer, the plant has been running smoothly since it began processing wastewater.
There are some fears of more wastewater being produced when the new buildings, such as the hotel, come into use. The plant cannot accept more water, and there is no more room to build another ditch near the current plant location.
As to how the ditch runs now, freshman Alexa Agathos found learning about the sewage process on campus interesting and necessary. “I thought it was cool,” said Agathos. “Sewage is a big part of life.”
For those who are interested in visiting the plant, email Eugene Brewer at [email protected]
The Environmental Club meets on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. in SSO, which is on the first floor of Roth Dinning.