Infrastructure Week, Day 2: Water

Water is a vital resource, but with a rise in deteriorating infrastructure and underfunded programs like the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF), we’ve run into a nationwide problem.

In recent years, we’ve witnessed water crisis on a national scale in places like Michigan, Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and even closer to home here in New York, as well as in the Southwest United States, where drought conditions continue to worsen.

Over one million miles of pipes work to deliver water around the county, most of that aging infrastructure having been laid numerous decades ago. Now more than ever, America requires government action to upgrade insufficient water infrastructure. Clean, reliable drinking water is a commodity that everyone, without exception, should have access to.

At KC Engineering and Land Surveying, P.C. (KC), our water supply group works to create sufficient, long-term resolutions to provide safe drinking water. With a group of skilled water, wastewater, civil, and environmental engineers, KC is able to provide lasting solutions to various municipalities, residential developments, and many more.

With projects like the Wallkill Water System Interconnect, Kosuga Well 7 Development, and LaGuardia Airport Trunk Main Relocation, KC continues to play a vital role in ensuring the functionality of filtration systems, water resources, and water treatment.

Everything You Wanted to Know About Water Treatment Plants

Did you know that 99.7% of Earth’s water supply is not usable by humans? This unusable supply includes not only saltwater but fresh water supplies from lakes and streams that often contain Cryptosporidium, E. coli, Hepatitis A, and Giardia intestinalis. The water we drink, from taps and bottles and fountains, goes through an extensive treatment process to rid itself of these harmful pathogens.

A water treatment plant serves its local community by sourcing its water from the surface, from lakes, streams, reservoirs, or from the ground, where water pools after seeping in from rain or snowfall. The plant is then tasked with disinfecting and purifying this “raw,” or untreated, water.

Below is a step-by-step look into how your water is treated:

The first step of the purification process is coagulation and flocculation: in this step, a coagulant, such as aluminum sulphate or iron salt, is added to the water to neutralize the negative charge of any dirt, parasite, or bacteria that might be present. This neutralization enlarges the harmful particles in preparation for the following step.

The second step is referred to as sedimentation, where the now enlarged dirt particles can more easily sink to the bottom of the water.

The third step is filtration, where the water is run through sand, gravel, or charcoal to weed out the enlarged dirt particles.

The fourth step is disinfection where a chemical such as chlorine or chloramine is added to the water to both kill any remaining parasites or bacteria and prevent the growth of new ones.

Finally, the purified water is stored in a water tower and, with plenty of gravity and pumps, is delivered into your home.

Want to find out more about the quality of your drinking water? Visit this site to access an annual drinking water quality report from your local water supplier.

The Dirty Truth Behind the Sewer System

As a child, did you ever wonder where your goldfish went after you flushed him? Did you imagine him soaring off to sea through a single pipe that connected your toilet to the ocean? Probably.

Is that what really happened to him? Probably not. But don’t get too upset, the actual engineering behind wastewater and sewer systems is pretty interesting. In fact, your goldfish probably went on a wild ride! Whenever water or items go down the drain, they are sent through a pipe in the ground to the local sewer system. From there, gravity sends the wastewater down the sewage line towards the treatment plant.

However, most locations aren’t lucky enough to have a plant located at the bottom of a mountain. This is where the real engineering kicks in. Once the pipes get too deep, the wastewater must be pumped closer to the surface so that it can begin its descent again. These pumping stations are part of a force main sewer that pressurizes the water so that it can flow against gravity to the treatment plant at the other end.

Seems simple enough, but sometimes the lines will get clogged by miscellaneous items (like your goldfish) or rags that prevent the water from flowing. In these cases, a pig is sent from the beginning of the line to the end in order to remove the blockage. The pig is a flexible cylinder that moves through the pipes and clears any buildup or blockage it encounters. When the pig emerges from the other end, it brings all the waste with it. Check out this video titled “Sewer Wars” for an out-of-this-world description of the process.

When the water finally arrives at the treatment plant, chemicals and bacteria are used to cleanse the dirty water so that it can be sent back into the environment. After that, the cycle begins all over again.

Engineers use their skills to create complex systems that aid in the day-to-day process so seamlessly that most people don’t even know about them. But now that you do, maybe next time you’ll bring your fishy friend to the ocean yourself. That may be the one thing engineering can’t help you with.