Tuesday, September 16, 2014

4th Grade River Rangers to the Rescue!

Ely O'Connor, with Clean Water Services’ Education & Outreach, visited today as the first step in a yearlong partnership between Joseph Gale and Clean Water Services to educate students about the NextGeneration Science Standard (NGSS) that addresses erosion:

4-ESS2-1 Make observations and/or measurements to provide evidence of the effects of weathering or the rate of erosion by water, ice, wind, or vegetation.

*The NGSS standards were adopted by the state of Oregon as the state science standards last spring.

This partnership has been established through the work of the Portland Metro STEM Partnership (PMSP), of which Joe Gale is one of their seven STEM Transformational schools and Clean Water Services is one of their industry partners. PSMP wrote a MetroNature in Your Neighborhoods grant last spring to support this project which entails four classroom visits to Joe Gale and four field visits to Fern Hill Wetlands and a field visit to Forest Grove’s wastewater treatment plant.

Ely gave her River Rangers presentation to studetns to help them realize how precious clean water is and what we can do to keep it clean and conserve it. Here are the questions she posed to the 4th graders to help them in their quest to become River Rangers.

#1 What do we use clean water for? 
·      Going to the bathroom! We use more water every day to flush the toilet than any other use of clean water. Newer toilets use about 2 gal/flush where as older models use up to 5 gal/flush.
·      Drinking! We should be consuming eight 8 oz glasses of water each day. Do the math, that's 64 oz/person/day.

#2 What percent of water in the world is "clean" water that we need to use for drinking and going to the bathroom? 
·      1%-if we had 100 buckets of water, only 1 of those buckets would be clean, fresh water!!! Most of our water on Earth is salt water (97%) and is not useable. 
·      This 1% is for everyone on the planet, all 7 billion!!! The more water we save through conservation the more that is available for everyone else on Earth.

#3 Why don't we run out of water if there is only 1%? 
Water gets recycled through the Water Cycle, if it couldn't be recycled we would run out pretty quickly. Here were some of the steps in the cycle that students were able to tell her about:
·      Evaporation-water turning from a liquid to a gas and rising up into the atmosphere.
·      Condensation-water cooling down and turning into a liquid in tiny droplets in the atmosphere.
·      Precipitation-large droplets of water falling from the sky and returning to the surface of Earth was rain, sleet, snow, etc.

#4 Our water is recycled through our watershed. What makes up our watershed?
·      Reservoirs/lakes "Hagg Lake" is the start of our watershed.
·      Rivers/streams/creeks "Gales Creek" feeds into our watershed.
·      Wetlands/swamps "Fern Hill Wetlands"
The lowest point in our watershed where all of our water collects is the Tualatin River. The closest place in the river to us at Joseph Gale is behind Fern Hill Wetlands. The Tualatin flows into the Willamette, which flows into the Columbia, which flows to the Pacific Ocean near Astoria. 

#5 Where does water go that falls in our neighborhoods?
There are storm/rain drains to prevent flooding on the street because water will flow towards and down into them eventually flowing through large underground pipes that take it directly into Gales Creek and then to the Tualatin River. 

#6 What are some problems that are shown in the picture that create "dirty" water in the
1)    Oil from cars 
2)    Agriculture (pig)
3)    Soap
4)    Trash
5)    Fertilizer
6)    Paint
All of these can release chemicals into the water, which are contaminants in our river and will harm wildlife, plant life or us!

#7 What are solutions to these problems?
Here are some of the solutions the students came up with:
1)    Collect oil and recycle at the curb by putting it in a gallon jug. Fix oil leaks in cars. 
2)    Move agriculture away from the river by building fencing and housing for them to live in.
3)    Park your car on grass when washing because the grass and soil will filter the soap out. Use a car wash that collects, cleans, and recycles the water.
4)    Put up signs near the banks of the river reminding people not to litter.
5)    Sweep up excess fertilizer that didn't land on the grass. 
6)    Paint on warm days so it dries quickly. Only use the amount of paint that is necessary. 

We have spent a lot of time talking about the outside drains but now let's turn our attention to our inside drains. 
#8 What are places where we make dirty water in our homes?
·      Sink
·      Bath/Shower
·      Toilet
·      Washing Machine

All of that wastewater leaves your home through the pipes and comes to the treatment plant where water is taken through the following steps to clean it and release it back into the Tualatin River.
1) Screening-a machine rotates with a screen that separates all the solids that are removed from the water and taken to the dump.
2) Primary Treatment-Water is stirred in a big tank and gravity does the work. Anything that is less dense than water, like dirt, sinks and all things less dense than water, like oil, floats. Rotating arms on the top and bottom of the tank remove the contaminants are moved to digesters.
3) Secondary & Tertiary Treatment-Microorganisms help to clean the water by consuming dissolved organic substances, especially ammonia (NH4), through aerobic respiration and produce carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O). As they do this, they convert the ammonia into nitrates (NO3-) through nitrification, which are then taken up in the microorganism during growth and then they settle out as a flock. During secondary treatment, a similar process is used to remove phosphates (tertiary: PO43-) and additional nitrates that are dissolved in the water.
**More than 98% of our nation’s water treatment ends after secondary treatment. Since the Tualatin River is slow moving and thus is sensitive to algae blooms, Clean Water Services is required to do tertiary treatment in order to make sure that contaminants are reduced down to levels that their permits require.
4) Filter-through gravel, sand, and charcoal to remove any last impurities and improve the smell
Insert pics of steps and water samples

Students looked at water samples at the various stages before treatment and after each stage. They then compared the water released from the treatment plant and the river water. Which one looks cleaner?

It is more difficult to tell in this picture but all students pointed to treatment plant sample. The river water definitely had a yellow tinge to it compared to the clean wastewater. 

#9 Why is the river water dirtier than the treatment plant water?
The storm water that flows directly to the river contains all the contaminants that we talked about in question #6 but does not undergo treatment like the wastewater.

Be a Tualatin River Ranger! Use your activity guide and stickers at home to mark substances that we need to be really careful with to make sure they don’t end up in the storm drains to make our river water dirty.

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