Monday, December 25, 2006

The Sludge Plant

Been back in town for a little over a week. One of my first assignments was at the Waste Water Treatment Plant. Yes, I would finally know what happens to the water, among other things here, that go down the drain. That's the "beauty" of being a GA - we really get to know how this station works.

My job was in the "Cake Room." To get there, we had to walk above all the waste water tanks. It is a somewhat smelly area with brown liquid in huge tanks all below me. Do not drop anything, I reminded myself, wondering if I should be wearing a respirator. Hoses were tied to the rails and spraying a mist that kept down the waste water foam building up on the tanks.

Into the machine room we go. The waste water "sludge" gets pumped to this machine, the water gets strained out, and then it gets further dehydrated by being mashed between two belts around huge roller bars. Then it gets scraped off the belts and falls into the room below it to be packaged in and shipped to California. My job: the packaging part.

Into the cake room. I built the "tri-wall" cardboard boxes, put metal strapping around them, double lined the things with huge black plastic bags, taped the edges and let the games begin. At this point the sludge has already been processed by all the organisims that break the bad stuff down, and the regulars there were handling the stuff with their bare hands. I still took precautions by wearing safety glasses and gloves to keep any flying debris off me. The boxes took about an hour to fill up, and periodically the pile would need to be evened out. In between, the levelling I had the luxury of time to read (Shackleton's The Heart of the Antarctic.)

Three boxes were made but then the machine started to not get all the water out, so more processing was aborted. After everything stopped the last thing I had to do was clean out all the solid debris from under the machine. Needless to say, I did laundry and took a long shower after finishing that job. Oh, the life of a General Assistant.

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