State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

ESP Students Focus on Water Treatment Processes

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MPA-ESP students tour the Stamford Water Pollution Control Facility.

Students in the Masters of Public Administration in Environmental Science and Policy program participated in a guided tour of Stamford, Connecticut’s waste water treatment plant as a part of their hydrology class led by Professor Michael Puma. The purpose of the trip was for students to experience firsthand how cites manage their waste water, a topic covered extensively in their class.

Stamford is just across the New York border in Connecticut, but has a very different waste disposal method than New York City. Stamford has separate systems for waste water and sewage, while New York has combined sewer overflow piping. In class, students learned primarily about the problems and benefits of combined sewage overflow systems, and got to see some of the negative effects of combined sewage overflow systems on earlier field trips. The trip to Stamford rounded out students’ experience with one of the most fundamental environmental issues facing every city.

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Engineers from the Stamford WPCA lead students on a tour of the facility.

Stamford engineers first gave a presentation about how the treatment facility functions, and showed examples of water before and after treatment. Following the presentations, an employee from the Department of Sanitation took students on a tour of the facility. This showed the complexity and extensiveness of the complex to the students and allowed them to see, and smell, all the different treatment stages. “The site visit to the Stamford Water Pollution Control Facility helps students understand both the importance, and scale of, waste water treatment,” Puma explained.

Students were able to view the inflow and primary filtering gate, where a series of machines and gates automatically remove any waste larger than a square inch – mostly rags; the active digesters where oxygen is added to the waste to help it break down biologically; and the solid waste compacting room.

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Students were able to tour the facility and observe different parts of the treatment process.

Students returned to New York with a greater understanding and appreciation of the environmental science used to help make everyday life in cities livable, and to ensure that human waste does not cause undue damage to the surrounding environment. “A key part of the ESP program is understanding the technical and, yes, financial challenges associated with protecting our water resources,” said Puma, and the trip to Stamford certainly helped with that goal.

Banner featuring a collage of extreme heat images.

Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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