HANNIBAL — Participants in Kids in Motion got the chance to see firsthand how their hard work at curbing pollution is connected to drinking water in Hannibal during a tour on Tuesday at the Hannibal Board of Public Works Water Plant.
In mid-June, participants from Hannibal and Bowling Green, Mo. in KIM, which is under the umbrella of Douglass Community Services and a United Way recipient, attended an orientation meeting with HBPW officials like a temporary seasonal HBPW employee would perform, said Andrea Campbell, storm-water coordinator for HBPW. They talked about storm water runoff and reducing pollution which can enter the streams, then the river where drinking water comes from.
“We talked about how one of the best ways to reduce pollution is to educate your community about how bad it is when you put things down the storm drain,” Campbell said.
The youth practiced using spray paint, and HBPW provided personal protective equipment for the task at hand. In addition to focusing on the importance of stopping pollution from entering the water, the youth also practiced safety while working in the public right-of-way during their project. During two days, four groups of KIM kids painted “Dump no waste, drains to stream” on nearly 100 storm drains in neighborhoods throughout Hannibal.
Beginning Monday, the youth got the chance to come out to see how everything connects together, with a firsthand tour at the HBPW water treatment plant. Campbell began by presenting a miniature model, which included a construction site, storm drains, streams and a representation of the Mississippi River.
Campbell showed the group of six youth how different substances can enter the waterways, including pesticides, discarded debris and dirt eroding from the construction site. When Madison Evans volunteered to create “rain” on the model with two spray bottles, her colleagues were visibly amazed when they saw how much of the debris represented by colored powdered drink mix entered the water.
“They learned about pollution, and why it’s important not to pollute, but giving them a tour of the Water Plant and making that connection from pollution prevention to actual source water protection, I think that’s an important thing for students,” Campbell said.
Campbell told the youth there are four key steps to making the water safe and ready to drink for community members: disinfection, filtration, sedimentation and coagulation. She explained to the youth the filtration process is similar to how a coffee filter keeps the grounds out of a cup of coffee.
She explained how coagulation begins. Flocking material is used to combine the small pieces of dirt into larger pieces, as the sedimentation process causes the growing pieces to fall to the bottom.
When the large portions fall, they enter the filtration process, through the large granular activated carbon tanks. The disinfection process is the final step of the process, with chemicals like chlorine used to remove germs and bacteria before the water goes to the towers.
Senior Water Treatment Plant Operator Ron Conger led the youth through the plant, so they could see each of the steps Campbell described firsthand. They marveled at the size of the 3-million-gallon water basin where the coagulation and sedimentation begins.
Conger showed the youth the large granulated activated carbon filtration units. And they marveled at the laboratory where quality control tests are performed daily.
Campbell said there are 110,000 quality control tests conducted each year in the HBPW plant lab. Of those tests, 9,500 are conducted in a Missouri Department of Natural Resources lab, and HBPW has had no water quality violations since January 2017, which Campbell said is when Conger joined.
The plant can treat up to 7.5 million gallons of water per day, but the Hannibal citizens average 3.2 million gallons of usage. Conger told the youth how the amount of the large basin they were looking at goes out the community every day. HBPW has a total of 8,160 meters in use for community residents and businesses.
Conger enjoyed getting to answer KIM participants’ questions and showing them how the water treatment process worked.
“I just hope they enjoyed the tour and maybe learned something,” he said. “Sooner or later, we’re going to need younger kin to do it. Maybe one of them will get interested enough in it to pursue this profession.”
Emily Harrelson, one of the KIM summer sponsors, said the group on Tuesday included four students from Hannibal and two from Bowling Green, Mo. The separate KIM program in Bowling Green was put on hold amid COVID-19 in 2020, so Bowling Green students are joining with Hannibal students.
Madison Evans, a Hannibal Middle School student, said she appreciated seeing the process unfold during the tour.
She really liked seeing the basin, along with the towering GAC filter tanks, which were her favorite part.
“The lab was really cool, too, because it’s all beakers and different types of waters — because you saw how different types of waters turned the beakers different types of colors,” Madison said.
Campbell expressed her enthusiasm in getting to be a part of the KIM project as they made a hands-on difference and got the chance to see the connection to their efforts and how to make good decisions going forward.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with these groups of KIM participants over the last few weeks. I’ve strived to give them the knowledge of recognizing pollution and how to prevent it, as well bring awareness about where our drinking water comes from,” Campbell said. “We also talked about the importance of water conservation; and its my hope that the students are able to use the information learned throughout their service project with us to be more conscientious of their water habits, both as environmental stewards and future utility customers.”