Ironhouse Sanitary District (ISD) Open House

View the Ironhouse Sanitary District Chamber Member page
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Past Event Tags: Iron House, ISD, Open House, Recycling, Tom Williams, and Water.

Today was the Ironhouse Sanitary District Open House, and since ISD general manager Tom Williams is a fellow Oakley Chamber of Commerce director, I went along to show my support.

I’d actually toured ISD’s wastewater recycling facility before, when they hosted a chamber mixer about six months ago, but I’d foolishly forgotten my camera on that occasion. In case you wonder why a wastewater recycling plant might want to give a tour, and why anyone would want to take pictures of it, it’s actually pretty interesting, and neither as smelly nor as disgusting as you would expect.

For one thing, only about 2% of the wastewater processed by ISD comes from Oakley’s toilets. The rest comes from sinks and washing machines. (Storm drains, on the other hand, get washed straight to the Delta, so please make sure anything you wash your car with is biodegradable.) For another, the pools full of bacteria are thoroughly aerated, so that they get to chowing down on all those organic materials pretty quickly. (Inorganic material is filtered out by means of huge drums not unlike washing machines at an earlier stage in the process. It gets hauled off to the landfill at the rate of a couple of dumpsters per day.) The actual “foul air” (that’s spelled “sewer gas” in my nose) gets collected in huge ducts and piped off to somewhere.

This is a brand new plant, opened only last year, and so uses the latest and most efficient techniques to filter waste out of the water. Instead of killing the last remaining bacteria with chlorine, ISD uses ultraviolet light. That means that the water that’s reclaimed at the end is almost clean enough to drink, and definitely safe to use for watering crops or for industrial purposes. (Now if we can just find some industries who want to move out to Oakley to buy some of it. Right now ISD uses it for growing hay.)

The dying bacteria that get squeezed out of the water would make great compost, though it’s not cost-effective to bag that up and sell it to the public; instead it’s trucked off to the landfill for use as “Alternative Daily Cover” between layers of garbage.

The plant is so heavily computerized that it can be maintained by a staff of five–but all of them have to have technical and engineering skills.One of the employees, Jenny Skrel, is also the architect who designed the plant.

Five people are contending for the three seats that are opening up on the ISD Board this year. ISD directors receive a stipend for attending meetings and some benefits for medical, dental, and vision coverage, which have caused an unusual degree of controversy in this particular election season.

Other past events at Ironhouse Sanitary District
October 2013 Mixer at Ironhouse Sanitary District

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