On Friday June 29, Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) educator Dottie Baumgarten hosted a tour of the Belmont Water Treatment Plant and the Southeast Water Pollution Control Plant (aka the sewage treatment plant). Dan Brown from Earth Force, Abby from TTF, and Leann and Mike of the Plymouth Meeting Friends School braved the heat to learn more about how PWD keeps our drinking water so clean.
The Belmont Water Treatment Plant pulls water from the Schuylkill River near Lincoln Drive and pumps it up to a plateau where it is stored in the Belmont Reservoir. The water is pumped to high ground so that gravity can help us to clean it. Sediment sinks out of the water in multiple steps of the process, starting in the reservoir. The plant managers can choose where to draw water from in the reservoir through holes in vertical pipes. The water is cleanest in the middle: free of sediment, which sinks, and of algal blooms on the surface.
Belmont supplies drinking water to the western half of Philadelphia. The TTF watershed gets most of its drinking water from the Baxter plant. Do you know where you get your drinking water from?
Philadelphia’s tap water is tested up to 500 times a week and cleaned to EPA standards. Bottled water is tested to the standards of the FDA, which are not as strict. Keep this in mind next time you’re at the grocery store.
Unfortunately every time we use water, we pollute it in one way or another. In Philadelphia, our wastewater goes to one of three treatment plants, pictured here. Can you find where your wastewater goes? Most of the wastewater from the TTF watershed goes to the Northeast Water Pollution Control Plant. We saw the plant where all the waste from Center City goes: about 80 million gallons per day. That’s about 1,212 Olympic-sized swimming pools!
The Philadelphia Water Department works very hard to keep our drinking water safe. Its Green City, Clean Waters program will help to keep millions of gallons of water out of our sewer system. But you can help too! Using less water, monitoring when you use large quantities of water (e.g., waiting to shower until after it stops raining) and being mindful about what you put into our water via storm drains, sinks, and toilets, are all ways that you can make their job a little easier.
Check out TTF’s first trip to the water treatment plants here!