Monday Morning

Image result for alarm clock

Article written by: Devon Boullion          

Your alarm goes off. You hit the snooze button.  It’s Monday.  The dreaded alarm sounds again,  producing the most grating sound known to mankind as your once favorite song launches into the familiar chorus. You roll over just in time to silence Taylor Swift before she can truly explain what you made her do and prepare for your weekly ritual.

A feeling of solidarity with all nine-to-five workers drives you forward as you amble towards the shower. As per usual, you turn the knob hoping the warm shower will help you move from this limbo state between weekend relaxation and binge-watching towards a full week of deadlines and early mornings. In your zombie-like state, it takes you a moment to realize that the water did not immediately switch on. Instead, the tap stalls for a moment. After a few seconds delay, a black, sludgy substance seeps out of the shower holes. In shock and horror, you assume you’re still dreaming. You then attempt to levitate, just to check. Despite your noble efforts, the attempt failed. This is not a dream.

You race to your desk to check Facebook and see if anyone else is having this problem.  They are. Just as you frantically Google the name of your local public utilities’ website, you feel the beginnings of a pounding headache. It is then that you grasp the true horror of the situation. No water means no coffee.

While the anecdote above is meant to make you think about your own morning ritual and use of water, your morning routine is only the tip of your water-usage iceberg. America runs on water. Our restaurants, hospitals, industries, farms and even some of our power sources rely on a clean water supply every day.

According to the EPA, in 2010 public supply (via utility departments) accounted for 12% of all freshwater withdrawals (1).  An economic study conducted by the Value of Water Campaign revealed that without access to water for just one day, approximately $43.5 billion worth of economic activity would be put at risk (2). In spite of this, many areas have done little to no work to improve their water infrastructure, which was originally laid out by Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Depression-era program (established in 1933), the Tennessee Valley Authority.

           Imagine a Day Without Water video

October 12 is Imagine a Day Without Water.  Spearheaded by The Value of Water Coalition, the event encourages us to take a moment and reflect on what we can do to help maintain our safe water supply.  In a culture based on innovation and building, we often forget the virtue of maintenance. We rush around, trying to improve aspects of our personal or work lives and often forget that we need to sit down and take care of what is most important to us. Without a solid base, no building can stay standing. Without hard work, no relationship stays together.  Without water infrastructure, American business cannot grow or even continue. 

We invite you to make your voice heard and participate in Imagine a Day Without Water. Working together amplifies our voices and allows us to bring public and political attention to the importance of our water supply and infrastructure.

Here are some potential ways that you can ensure maintenance of your health, your communities’ health, and the health of American businesses:

  • Get involved in the political process.
    • Write to your local mayor, public utilities department, elected representative, or governor about the importance of private and public investment in water infrastructure.
  • Learn more about water supply and infrastructure.
    • Visit The Value of Water website and learn more about the role of water in our lives, our economy, our environment, and our community.  Knowledge is the most powerful tool of all.
  • Learn to be “water smart” in your day-to-day activities.
    • Learn 5 do’s and don’ts of how to be a Sewer Hero!  We can all do our part to maintain our sewer infrastructure.
  • Tell your friends why water matters to you!
    • Take a selfie of what you would miss most on a day without water and use #valuewater!

The Monday morning scenario seems a little outlandish, but “in 2015 nearly 77 million Americans lived in an area where their water infrastructure violated at least one safety regulation (3).”  It might not be black sludge that comes out of the shower, but this makes the situation even scarier. Most contaminants of concern in our water, like lead or arsenic, are not easily visible or reported quickly. Let’s work together and remind our politicians, colleagues, friends and ourselves that we need to #valuewater today and every day!

 

References:

  1. https://www.epa.gov/watersense/how-we-use-water
  2. http://thevalueofwater.org/sites/default/files/Fact%20Sheet_Economic%20Impact%20of%20Investing%20in%20Water%20Infrastructure%20FINAL.pdf
  3. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/04/us/tapwater-drinking-water-study.html

 

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Sewer Heroes Take Over the Athens Water Festival!

We all had the dream at some point in our lives.  Maybe you wanted to grow up and be Wonder Woman with a magical golden lasso.  Or you may have imagined yourself with the ability to talk to sea life, just like Aquaman.  Perhaps you and your sibling spent hours hoping to activate your Wonder Twin powers and change form.  How did this work out for you?

If your Superhero dreams were foiled, never fear.  There is still hope for us all.  With a remarkable dedication to fighting grime, a strong desire to protect the public, and a little H2knOwledge, you can transform into a Superhero.  Well, maybe not a Superhero from the comics, but definitely a real-life Sewer Hero! 

Don’t believe me?  Look to the recent Athens Water Festival for the hard evidence.  Hundreds of Athenians came out to the annual event and tapped into their hidden potential to earn official, certifiable Sewer Hero status.

With great flushing power comes great responsibility.  Let it flow.  Be a Sewer Hero.

Make plans to attend next year’s Athens Water Festival, September 8, 2018.

 

Athens Water Festival: Be a Sewer Hero!

Today’s blog is from Laurie Loftin, a practicing Sewer Hero and Water Conservation Program Specialist

Faster than a flushing toilet.  More powerful than a “flushable” wipe.  Able to toss trash into the most decorative bathroom trash can.  It’s a bird.  It’s a plane.  It’s a… Sewer Hero!

Yes, a Sewer Hero, an everyday earthling who understands that with great flushing power comes great responsibility.  And who, disguised as an average John/Jane Doe, quietly making their way to the restroom, fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and a clear sewer way.

If you have not reached Sewer Hero status, never fear.  The Athens Water Festival offers FREE Sewer Hero Training and you are invited!

  • When:  Saturday, September 9, 2017
  • Time:  10:30AM – 2:00PM
  • Where:  Sandy Creek Park, 400 Bob Holman Road, Athens, GA   30607
  • Cost:  $2 park entry; festival activities are FREE!
  • What:  A family-friendly event all about water; bring a swimsuit
  • More info:  Visit AthensWaterFestival.com

What can you expect to accomplish at this extraordinary family-friendly event?  Here is a small sampling:

  • Use and improve your Sewer Hero agility skills as you dodge the water drops sprayed from water trucks

  • Meet mysterious creatures from the sea and practice using telepathy to communicate with them

The Grease Menace Stinks!

 

Wicked Wipes Clog Pipes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Learn techniques to defeat the Grease Menace and Wicked Wipes Monster.

 

  • Develop your Sewer Hero skills, such as maneuvering underwater robots, stopping sneaky straws from getting into stormwater, making water safe to drink, and more from over 20 different organizations

The Athens Water Festival is one of the top annual family events in Athens.  Meteorologists predict good, mild weather.  UGA conveniently scheduled an away, nighttime football game so as not to conflict with the festival. There is truly no reason to not attend the 2017 Athens Water Festival.  Bring your bravery, courage, and strength to the festival and show us what a true Sewer Hero looks like.

 

Color Me Bluetfiul!

Crayola, the indisputable King of Crayons, is letting you borrow their crown for a day.

Imagine the possibilities of bluetiful

Proving a Dandelion can be eradicated, Crayola recently retired the yellow-hued crayon and plans to replace it with a shade of blue. You are knighted with the honor of selecting the name for the new hue of blue.

Unknown to man until 2009, YlnMn is a vibrant blue pigment discovered by brilliant chemist Mas Subranmaian and his team at Oregon State University. With a name like YlnMn, it is clear chemist are not the most creative and colorful when it comes to naming discoveries. Thankfully, Crayola has come to the rescue.

The two groups are combining their strengths. The chemists provide the pigment for a new crayon; Crayola brings their marketing skills to the drawing board.

Now, this is where you come in. Following a call for suggestions, Crayola has revealed the top five names and asks you to choose. Here are the contenders:

• Blue Moon Bliss
• Bluetiful
• Dreams Come Blue
• Reach for the Stars
• Star Spangled Blue

I am lobbying heavily for “Bluetiful.”  What color do we tend to associate with water? Blue. What is a word often associated with water? Beautiful. The name “Bluetiful,” a longtime and well-used adjective in the Water Conservation Office, is a perfect blending of beautiful and water.

Need convincing bluetiful is the perfect word choice with many applications?

• Turn off the water while brushing your teeth and you are bluetiful.
• Visit an Athens’ Certified Blue location and you support a bluetiful business.
• Relax and gaze at the blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico for a bluetiful view.
• Color and hang a water drawing by your child on the refrigerator using Crayola’s new color and you have a bluetiful work of art.

It is the perfect word and Crayola is just the first step for bluetiful. The word has the potential to make a huge splash in the lexicon. From here, it will gain the attention it deserves, moving onto the list of words added to the Miriam-Webster Dictionary. Imagine:

Bluetiful adj., 1. having a fluid beauty often associated with a shade of blue and/or water. 2. used to describe a person who uses water wisely. noun, 1. A vibrant blue pigment once referred to as YlnMn.

Dive in and vote online every day through August 31 on Crayola’s website.  Everyone who votes is entered for a chance to win one of six trips to Crayola Experience in Orlando, FL.  I wonder if the experience is anything like when Mr. Rogers visited a crayon factory.  The name of the crayon and the winners of the trip will be announced in early September 2017.

Today’s blog was written by Laurie Loftin, program specialist with the Athens-Clarke County Water Conservation Office and a fan of the color bluetiful

 

Be a Sewer Hero: Fight Evil Villains

Today’s blog is from Laurie Loftin, who is a not-so-secret Sewer Hero!

Uncle Ben said it best: “With great flushing power comes great responsibility.” Everyone who dreams of being a Sewer Hero is wise to remember this expression.

What is a Sewer Hero? These dedicated individuals fight grime, protect the public, and battle super villains.  Let me introduce you to two of the Sewer Hero’s biggest foes:

The Sewer Hero has many enemies.  Let me introduce you to two of the Sewer Hero’s biggest foes:

The Wicked Wipes Monster

This monster seems harmless. Clever marketing encourages you to welcome it into your home. You find it in a decorative, neat package perfect for brightening the back of the

Wicked Wipes Clog Pipes!

toilet. The soft, fresh scent masks any sense of doo-m that may soon flow. Do not let its quilted softness fool you. Once you flush the Wicked Wipe Monster down a toilet, it has a way of rearing its ugly head right back out of your toilet.  Made from a durable material,  “flushable” wipes do not easily disintegrate in water. Wicked Wipes use their strength to clog pipes. The damage is evident when raw sewage is overflowing in your home, oozing from a manhole cover, or the wipes hinder our equipment at the water reclamation facility.

Be a Sewer Hero!

  • If you use wipes, be it flushable, baby, cleaning, or make-up remover wipes, put these in the trash, not the toilet.
  • Instead of using wipes, keep a small spray bottle of water by the toilet. When the time comes, fold your toilet paper into a neat square and spritz it with the water bottle. You have made a homemade wipe that cleans and flushes easily.

The Grease Menace

Yuuuummm, bacon. Who doesn’t love the meat candy? The only problem with bacon is the grease it leaves behind. It is a menace. It will try to deceive you. At a hot

The Grease Menace Stinks!

temperature, the grease looks like a liquid one can easily pour down the drain. Don’t fall into its greasy trap. Once it goes down the drain, this shape shifter attaches itself to the sides of the pipe. As more fats from items such as peanut butter, sour cream, and ranch dressing flow past, they join forces to form a league of Grease Menaces, aka FOG (Fats, Oils, & Greases). The result is a nasty FOG Clog. Nothing can get past the putrid plug it creates. When you see the items you flushed down your drain or toilet start to reappear in your home, you will know the mark of the Grease Menace.

Be a Sewer Hero!

  • NEVER pour used cooking fats, oils, or grease down the drain. Let these cool and put them in the trash.
  • Wipe out empty containers of high-fat foods. Wipe off plates covered in dressings. Do you have a dog? Let Fido do some pre-washing of your dishes.
  • Recycle used cooking oils. In Athens, GA, our Recycling Center, Landfill, and the North and Middle Oconee Water Reclamation Facilities have oil drop-off containers. The used oils are recycled and turned into biodiesels.  Drop them off!

I hope you can see how easy it is to be a Sewer Hero.  You don’t have to be bitten by a radioactive spider. There is no need to practice landing after a jump from a tall building.  No special costume is required.   The only gadget needed is a trash can to put the wipes and used cooking FOG into.

I ask you to accept this responsibility.  In turn, you keep your headquarters clean and our city flowing.  The power to be a Sewer Hero is within everyone.  Once you choose to do so, you will discover it is flushing awesome!

Reduce, Reuse, Re-water-cycle

Today’s blog is by Laurie Loftin, program specialist in ACC Water Conservation Office

Reduce, reuse, recycle. This delightful alliteration reminds us of alternative ways to lighten the load in our landfills. But can this jingle apply anywhere else? Can we broaden the breadth of the 3 R’s to embrace our waters? Perhaps a “reduce, reuse, re-water-cycle” could become an updated slogan. Let’s take a look at how to adapt these concepts to care for a vital resource.

Reduce: The first “R” is easy to understand and accomplish. Turn off the water when brushing your teeth, find and repair leaks, or trim your meat consumption and you easily reduce your water footprint.  When we are in the habit of using less water, we are better prepared to handle the inevitable dip in our water supply. Reducing demand on reservoirs and other sources allows us to save this liquid gold for the non-rainy days of drought.

Reuse: Pollution, proximity, and drought are a few of the variables affecting our ability to easily access water. As our world population grows, our water resources remain the same. But is it possible there is another source of water we are overlooking?

There is. Sort of.  What we currently refer to as wastewater has the potential to be reused, essentially allowing us to find a “hidden” reservoir.  Reusing wastewater is not a new idea. In fact, March 22 marks World Water Day, an annual event coordinated by UN-Water. The date celebrates water and highlights a specific issue related to tackling the world’s growing water crisis. For 2017 the theme is “Why Waste Water?,” with a focus on the many applications for wastewater reuse.

According to UN-Water, “globally, over 80% of the wastewater generated by society flows back into the ecosystem without being treated or reused.”¹  If this water is treated and safely managed, it could offer an affordable supply of water, particularly in developing countries with limited access to water. Improved sanitation means better health, which leads to increased productivity and a positive economic impact that far outweighs the initial cost of wastewater treatment.

The idea is not a pipe dream.  Already cities across America are discovering ways to reuse water. Purple pipes allow access to treated water approved for the irrigation of golf courses and agriculture. The Waterhub at Emory University in Atlanta, GA reuses water to supply nearly 40% of the school’s non-potable needs. Breweries in CA and WA use treated wastewater to brew craft beers. Municipalities are beginning to investigate and plan for reservoirs that receive piped effluent. The many possibilities for reuse water in agriculture, energy production, and reservoir replenishment are intriguing and worth exploring.

Re-water-cycle: Reuse and recycle appear to be similar, but if we connect the terms to water, there is a clear distinction. Reuse involves imagining creative ways to reuse our wastewater.

Recycled water is the never-ending cycle of evaporation, condensation, and precipitation.  We can also think of water as being recycled when added to soft drinks, consumed in our bodies, and absorbed into our food crops.  The recycling of water is a good and necessary phenomenon.  However, water recycling is a double-edged sword.  During this revolution water can leave one community and move to another.  When water vapor blows from one state to another or transported away in a plastic soda bottle or cucumber,  the result is a water loss in one area and a water gain found in another.

A second way H2O recycles is during the “urban water cycle“.  Water is removed from a point of supply and taken to a drinking water treatment plant to be transformed to drinking water quality. The clean liquid flows through pipes to people’s homes and businesses. The water is used and flushed into sewer pipes to make its way to a water reclamation facility. The wastewater is treated and returned to the source, which flows to the next community to be pulled and turned into drinking water.  This happens again and again.

As presented, the 3 Rs are easily applicable to water.  The next question is whether or not others will agree.

When I speak of water reuse or recycling, listeners often wrinkle their noses in a display of disgust.  Understandably, the word “wastewater” tends to have negative preconceptions associated with it.  But if you are familiar with the treatment operations at water reclamation facilities, you know filtration equipment removes trash, solids, and inorganic compounds from the influent.  Microorganisms handle the removal of phosphorus, nitrates, and other undesirable elements.  Ultraviolet rays provide an additional layer of disinfection.  The remaining end product is typically cleaner than the source water it is added back to.  Any of the ickiness factor one links with the idea of wastewater reuse washes away during treatment.

If you go deeper, we can imagine the places our water may have been before it is in our drinking glass.  The water molecule you shower with may have once been inside a rabbit.  Your coffee may contain water that percolated down through someone’s septic drainfield.  Water has been recycled and reused from the dawn of time.  When it is properly treated, we have very little fear of becoming ill as a result of reusing these well-traveled molecules.

The point is, we already practice the 3 Rs in relation to water without thinking about it.  We must continue to reduce our demands on the water supply.  It is time for us to investigate innovative applications for wastewater reuse and put the ideas into action.  We need to ensure that wastewater is properly treated worldwide so only the cleanest water is available for recycling.  All of this can done.  We simply need to recognize that there is no such thing as wastewater, but rather only wasted water.

 

1 On average, high-income countries treat about 70% of the wastewater they generate, while that ratio drops to 38% in upper-middle-income countries and to 28% in lower-middle-income countries. In low-income countries, only 8% of industrial and municipal wastewater undergoes treatment of any kind (Sato et. al, 2013).

3 Reasons the Clean Water Rule is Important to Athens, GA & Beyond

Today’s blog shares the opinion from Laurie Loftin, who is not a lawyer

Over the past year, you may have heard the EPA’s Clean Water Rule, also known as the Water of the US Rule (WOTUS), is under attack.  Much debate has been raised as to whether or not the measure is unconstitutional.  Opponents suggest the rule is an example of the federal government’s overreach and fondness of regulations.  The current White House hopes to roll back the rule.  Georgia is one of 31 states issuing a challenge in federal court.

cwr_both-pages_final-1_page_2

Infographic of potential protections & excluded features.  Click here to read this without glasses

So what is going on here?  Should you be concerned about this?  How does this affect you and others who live in Athens, GA?

I am not a lawyer, so I cannot speak to the legal merits of the Clean Water Rule.  I am, however, a human being dependent upon clean water.  I desire clean water.  I work for a utility whose mission is to provide this resource to our community.  I want to know what the Clean Water Rule – or the lack thereof – means to me.

Before I could determine how the Clean Water Rule (CWR) will impact my daily life, I did a
bit of research to gain understanding.  Let me share by starting with some brief history.  What we know as the Clean Water Act (CWA) was actually an amendment to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948.  In 1969 the Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught fire.  Yes, water actually caught fire.  The filthy conditions of this river “water” helped jump-start the environmental movement.  The EPA was born in 1970, followed soon after by what we now call the Clean Water Act in 1972.

Broadly, the Clean Water Act set forth the goal of making all of our waters swimmable, fishable, navigable, drinkable, and nonflammable.  The EPA has the authority to set the standards for our waters, as well as the burden of enforcing these regulations.  The trouble arises in that the CWA of 1972 does not clearly state which waters are under its jurisdiction, leading to confusion and litigation.  The Clean Water Rule iswas written to remove any ambiguity.  The rule clarifies which tributaries, such as streams and creeks, are under the EPA’s protection.

Now back to the typical resident of Athens, GA.  What does this mean to you and why should you care?

Map populations Clarke GA get water from Waters of US rule

Over 100,000 people in Athens get their drinking water from surface water.  Where does yours come from?

#1.  You drink water.  Athens relies on surface water for our drinking water supply.
Specifically, we depend on three sources:  1) Bear Creek Reservoir, 2) Middle Oconee River, and 3) North Oconee River. The headwaters of these rivers are found in Hall County, with tributaries contributing to the rivers’ flow.  The CWR makes clear which of the tributaries are protected, all the way from Hall County to Clarke County and beyond.

According to the CWR, to be considered a tributary the water must show physical features of flowing water.  Most ditches do not have flowing water and aren’t considered tributaries, therefore they are not affected by this rule.  Likewise, the CWR does not cover gullies, groundwater, or puddles.  The new rule only protects waters that have historically been covered by the Clean Water Act.  So in a nutshell, the Clean Water Rule continues to protect the surface water you depend on every day, only now the definition of which waters are a protected tributary is clarified.

Anyone on Athens city water uses surface water.  When indirect water use is factored in, everyone in Athens, including those on well water, uses the surface water the CWR is designed to safeguard. For example, our restaurants depend on this municipal supply for the water mixed with your soda syrup, the ice in your glass, and the clean dishes you eat off of.  This rule affects all of us.

#2.  You don’t want to play in polluted water.  I am making an assumption here, but most

15450492499_8f89a1d6ef_b

I use to think of Brazil as an exotic locale to visit.  But this is the water. It is scratched off of my places to visit list. (image from flickr MAHM)

people want to vacation by clean water.  The water from the Oconee River eventually joins to form the Altamaha River, which empties into the Atlantic Ocean near St. Simon’s Island and Brunswick, GA .  If this is your summer vacation spot, recognize that any pollution picked up in the water from Hall County on down will end up in your Atlantic swimming pool.  The Clear Water Rule is put in place to further limit the pollutants floating beside you.

Prefer to vacation along the Gulf of Mexico?  Because all ocean waters are formed by the emptying of rivers filled by the tributaries, the Clean Water Rule applies to this paradise, too.  The headwaters of the Mississippi River are found in northern Minnesota.  The Mighty Mississip then winds through ten states, traveling over 2,300 miles, before reaching the turquoise Gulf waters.  Imagine the number of pollutants that can be picked up over such a long distance. I would prefer to have someone watching over these waters to help limit the contaminants I end up swimming with.

#3.  You dine on seafood.  If you enjoy shrimp, oysters, and fish, then the CWR is important to you.  The rule helps to assure you have a seafood dinner you can afford.

Here is an example of how the regulation affects your tummy.   The aforementioned Mississippi River discharges into the Gulf of Mexico.  Along the way, it flows past farmland, industries, and water reclamation facilities, picking up high nutrient runoff and depositing it into the Gulf.  Fertilizers from farming are one of the main culprits for the increase in nutrients.  Another cause is from the effluent of water reclamation facilities in violation of their EPA permits.

The excess phosphorus and nitrogen dumped in the Gulf promote the growth of algae,

gulf_dead_zone

The annual dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico averages to be about the size of Connecticut. (image from Wikimedia Commons)

which in turn removes oxygen from the water to create a “dead zone“.  Without oxygen, the sea life dies, hence the name.  When the oysters, shrimp, and fish of the Gulf die in mass numbers, there are less available for fisherman to harvest.  Less supply for the same demand increases the cost of your dinner.

The remaining aquatic life wisely moves further from shore so as to breathe.  The result is fishermen traveling longer distances to catch what remains.  The added expense of the fishing expeditions is seen on your bill at Red Lobster.

Since the Clean Water Act was put in place, waters in Athens and across the nation have improved.  We no longer hear of rivers catching fire.  We can swim without the worry of catching hepatitis. Point-source pollution has dropped from 85% to 15% of the pollutants in our waterways.

For all the good done by the CWA over the last 45 years, the work is not done and it must continue.  The Clean Water Rule strengthens the work done by the CWA.  We cannot take our cleaner waters for granted.  All we have to do is look to China to see that humans are easily enticed by the promise of higher incomes at the cost of the environment.  Closer to home, Flint, MI officials chose the dollar over the safety of the water.  These actions are happening today, in 2017.

No one benefits from polluted, unusable water. It is hard to understand how access to clean water has become a Republican vs. Democrat, conservative vs. liberal, farmer vs environmentalist battle.  Any short-term monetary gain is not worth the long-term loss to our much-needed resource. We speak of the need for unity in America.  Clean water is one issue that anyone, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or political party can support.

The controversy over the Clean Water Rule is ongoing.  I suggest that the guardianship of our water and the availability of clean water is not to be debated, but rather viewed as a right to be protected for every citizen in the United States. Strengthening the Clean Water Act with the implementation of the Clean Water Rule makes sense.  The people in Athens, GA depend on it.

If interested in learning more about the Clean Water Rule, here are several links. I  have attempted to provide the facts as stated by the EPA, as well as articles presenting both sides of the debate to help readers form their own opinion:

Explanation of the Clean Water Rule from EPAcwavote

What the Clean Water Rule Does

What the Clean Water Rule Does Not Do

The entire Clean Water Rule

House to Take Up Bill Blocking EPA Water Rule, 1/16

Small Farmers Against Big Agribusiness, 1/16

U.S. Supreme Court’s ‘Waters of the U.S.’ gift to the Trump Administration, 1/17

Clean Water Rule Georgia Fact Sheet