Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance

Mary Grace McClellan did some of her time working with Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance

The Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance’s mission, which can be found on their website, is this: “The Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance of Northwest Florida State College is an organization committed to sustaining and providing optimum utilization of the Choctawhatchee Basin watershed. CBA provides opportunities for citizens, educators, and technical experts to promote the health of the Choctawhatchee Basin watershed.” CBA monitors the quality of the Choctawhatchee Basin watershed, the seagrass, and the oyster reefs. These are all key factors in a healthy water system.
            I volunteered for CBA’s “Touch Tank” at the Destin Seafood Festival. The Touch Tank is a tangible aid for explaining to people (mostly children) what the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance does and why it is important. To set up the Touch Tank, we first went out to Joe’s Bay with a seine net to collect samples of the life that the CBA helps to foster by building oyster reefs (which we also took a sample of) and promoting seagrass growth (we had a very very small sample of that, too). Once we had our critters, we set up our tank at the Seafood Festival. We put the fish and other samples of in a shallow bin so that kids could reach in and touch all the things we had collected.
            Oyster reefs are important because oysters can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day. Water needs to be filtered to avoid the water becoming eutrophic, meaning that the water has become too nutrient-rich to sustain life. Filtered water also promotes water clarity, which can help the sunlight reach underwater vegetation. Larger oyster reefs also act to break wave energy before it reaches the shore, which aids in shoreline restoration. A lot of life can flourish around the oyster reefs as well, which is important for the ecosystem as well as for the tourist industry.
            The sample of seagrass we had often brought the comparison to some pipefish that we caught for the Touch Tank. Aside from securing shorelines, seagrass is very important for the promotion of the pipefish population. The pipefish can pretty much exclusively live among the seagrass because the two look so similar, a fact that I think the parents and kids alike found pretty interesting.

Pace Water System

Elio Latella did his service hours working with Pace Water Systems: 

I enjoyed my time at Pace Water as the staff were highly knowledgeable and easygoing.  We began the day in cold rain jackets checking the chemical amounts from water samples of the larger already-treated water.  Interestingly, slight variations in percentages of chemicals such as chlorine make a big difference in the end result of usability. Used for killing harmful bacteria in the sewage, and further from toxic chemicals to kill bacteria used by the plant itself. 

After testing the amounts of various chemicals, the decision of “safe” or “unsafe” to release water is made.  It shocked me that the plant provided water to such a large grid of users.  The pipes spanned through local wetlands, residential areas locally and further out of the immediate area for power and energy purposes.  Such a positive effect for a non-profit company was pleasing for me and others to see.

After testing, and the temperature rose, we got a tour of the facilities.  The plant was large, but not huge.  Utilizing the two parts of treatment (primary and secondary), the employees showed to me how each small instrument in each section worked.  I had some idea of water management before I arrived at the plant, however I felt enlightened upon leaving.  Sections such as “grit chambers” and sedimentation tanks, I was showed, allowed a slow process of allowing the sediments to sink and the water to rid itself of larger objects accumulated. Aeration tanks and another (secondary) sedimentation tank – which was HUGE! – furthered the process and all as crucial as the last for a safe final product.

Finally, the water is disinfected and stabilized.  Dewatering then allows the water to be utilized and biosolids to be disposed of.

What I liked a lot learning the process of water treatment and distribution to the local areas needs was how my knowledge applied to our studies, not only from the textbook, but from my discussions with others as well.   Where water comes from,  and how we use it was noted in our class textbook.  Far more interestingly, however, was my research conducted in discussing how eating less meat can save water.  

My statistics I found in research, such as only 2.5% of water we use comes from fresh water sources, allowed my understanding of the relevance of how important the plant is to the local environment.  Tying my first hand experiences to my class learning gave me a full perspective on the water cycle.  Outside knowledge such as environmental forums such as “The Environment Site”, “Hugg” and “Care2” added to films like Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” further helped apply my learning. 
Overall, I enjoyed my time at the plant and met some really nice people.  Aside from water treatment, the employees treated us to bbq lunch of sausages, chips and drinks! They spent the afternoon moving spare parts and utensils from the warehouse in which we helped.  After the sweat session, we progressed to by far the prettiest part of the area, 50 acres (or more!) of wetlands to distribute water where we fed fish, saw birds and reptiles.  So not only did I apply knowledge learned in class about water, I was able to experience a natural ecosystem first-hand to note varying effects of nature and how we affect it. Great day!
Fish fed near the warehouse