Monday, February 3, 2014

Ithaca's Drinking Water

Photo from the City of Ithaca

One bitingly cold day last week a few aspiring planners from CRP headed out to the Six Mile Creek Watershed for a tour of Ithaca's water intake infrastructure.  Leading our tour was the very friendly and helpful Roxy Johnston, the City of Ithaca's Water Treatment Plant lab director.  On our hour-long walk we saw the lower reservoir, the original water intake pipe from the early 20th century, the recreation area, and the actual treatment plant itself.  In many places along the trail, Ithaca's original 20 inch diameter pipe from 1902 is visible (and still in use!), although the city is continually updating its infrastructure (and last year voted to rehab the current facility completely).  Amazingly, the line we saw was originally put in using human labor, mules, and dynamite. Most of the interesting details about the whole process are covered on the city's website.  This was a great trip not only because it was nice to explore a bit of Ithaca many of us had never seen before; but also because it really illuminated how widely spread a city's needs really are.

Map from the Cayuga Lake Watershed Network:

Artifact pipe uncovered.  This section is no longer in use.

Dan O., former engineer and current planning student: "Not a good idea to stand on the pipe!"

Below us is a 20ft-deep tank filled with water and a coagulating agent which is the first stage in collecting impurities.  

One of the filtration tanks.  Water is pumped into here and then filters out through a mass of fine sand and charcoal.  In the near future the plant will be switching to a new type of more advanced filtration which is easier to maintain and filters out even smaller particles.
Periodically the filtration tanks get blasted with air to upset the sediment that has collected, then drained.
Remember--every time you pour something out, put fertilizer on your lawn, or wash your car in the driveway--someone else is downstream.