I was offered the chance to take a science class this summer on someone else’s dime and I jumped at the opportunity as the class is about environmental problem solving. Anyhoo-field trips abound, which is great because it has introduced me to the Tom Ridge Environmental Center, a community garden, and persons doing research for the betterment of Erie’s environment. All good stuff.

So today we journeyed to the Erie Waste Water Treatment Facility and all I can say is dammmmmmmnnnn. I am a changed human being.

Let’s just get the issue of “smell” out the way right now. There’s 3 levels of odor which can only be described as the following:

1. Stinky. Sure, it’s smelly, but certainly nothing to toss your cookies over.

2. Stanky. Okay, the eyes are watering a bit, but if you focus on breathing through your mouth, you might get through it long enough to find a bathroom and lose your lunch there.

3. Oh-My-Dear-Dog-What-IS-That?!: It’s vile, it’s indecent, it’s the worst thing you’ve ever experienced and you don’t want to describe it, because that just means you have to relive an experience you’d really rather forget. Unfortunately, no, gas masks are not available and a decomposing rat inside a small car on a hot, sunny day smells like fresh spring flower by comparison.

The tour of the facility is provided by Laurann, a small, powerhouse blond who has worked at the facility a good long time and provides a thoroughly entertaining experience. Yes, I said it, entertaining. She knows her stuff, she obviously must like her job to endure such a smell, and she doesn’t mince words which is something no one should do in light of such filth as human waste. The word “poo” gets used quite often and the descriptors such as “stinky”, “flaming”, and “nasty” are, more often than not, involved in the sentence.

The EWWTF is, quite simply, a marvel. It is a marvel of efficiency, ingenuity, and environmental conscienceness. Every acting president should have to work a day at one before they ever consider allowing a reduction in water standards. Hell, every person in this country should be required to spend a day at one before turning on another water tap.

I have a whole new appreciation for our water systems in this country and consider myself damn fortunate to be here and not, say, in India. As of today, my garbage disposal is a White Elephant. All food stuffs are now going directly into the trash. I’ve made a slow move towards biodegradable cleaning products for a while now and I’ve decided that I will complete that turn-over this weekend. I am inspired and determined to make it last.

Right after I burn the clothes I wore to the plant today.

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