City of Asheville staff conducted tours of the North Fork Water Treatment Plant in Black Mountain for the Owen Middle School 7th grade class field trip on June 8. Around 130 students toured the plant through an education and outreach program conducted in partnership with RiverLink, a regional nonprofit spearheading the economic and environmental revitalization of the French Broad River. This is the first school field trip tour since 9/11, when Homeland Security was established and public tours at the plant were suspended.
During the tour, led by Sustainability Outreach Specialist Rachel Rogers and RiverLink Education Coordinator Hayley Joyell Smith, students hiked up to the City’s primary water source to see how the water is harvested from the North Fork Reservoir, treated with chemicals such as chlorine to address any pathogens and filtered to remove sediment before being distributed to the 126,000 residents in Asheville and Buncombe County. The City of Asheville processes approximately 15 million gallons of water daily.
“The field trips are a great way to demonstrate the process of providing safe water,” said Director of Water Resources Stephen Shoaf, who helped to initiate the school field trip program. “It is important that citizens understand the city’s role and their relationship to this valuable resource,”
Superintendent of Water Production Leslie Carreiro agreed, saying, “field trips offer a wonderful learning experience. They allow the students to learn where their drinking water comes from, how it is treated and that it takes numerous people with many different skills, education and knowledge to deliver the water to their homes.”
North Fork Treatment plant staff explained to the 7th graders how they use advanced computer systems to monitor the treatment process and ensure the water quality is within high health standards through testing in the state certified lab. They also shared their educational background and the degrees needed for a job in the water treatment field, helping to link career choices and education.
Students also participated in hands-on activities led by RiverLink Education staff, interns and volunteers, including the 3-D Enviroscape watershed model and water quality testing. These activities helped the students to further understand how the protected 22,000 acre North Fork watershed functions to produce high quality and safe drinking water.
Owen Middle School 7th grade science teacher Don Slye thought this was a wonderful opportunity for the students to get out and “actually see first hand the process of water treatment, not only to see it happening but to talk to the people responsible for their clean water. Now they know there is more to it than just turning on the faucet and getting clean water. This will stick with them a lot longer than if we had just seen a video or had a discussion about the water filtration process.”
The City of Asheville and RiverLink hope to provide more education/outreach programs to area schools in the future. Through this partnership, RiverLink would conduct hands-on activities in the school classroom to provide students with important information on watershed functioning and the role of water quality testing. With this information, students would then tour either the North Fork Water Treatment Plant or the Mills River Water Treatment plant to get first hand experience of where their drinking water comes from.
Click here for more information on the City of Asheville’s water treatment and distribution.
Click here for more information on the City’s Sustainability Initiatives.