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WOW: Bubbling tanks, frigid temps result in wondrous icy landscape

Well that’s not something we see every day.

These open-air aeration tanks inject air bubbles into the wastewater during the treatment process at our Southerly plant, but this event is something rarely seen before.

Here’s what the tanks look like in normal conditions (left image), bubbling and swirling to support microorganisms that help consume germs in the water.

But as temps bottomed out last night (above), nearing almost 40 degrees below zero with the wind chill, the surfaces froze, but water continued to bubble through holes in the ice. The result is an amazing array of ice pillars silhouetted against the morning sky in Cuyahoga Heights.

Does the ice affect this part of the treatment process? Yes and no, Wastewater Plant Operator in Training Christen Wood told me.

“The air is in
the channel to encourage mixing and prevent freezing,” she said, but the “insanely cold” temps like recently are very rare. The ice “probably will even melt during the day today. The microorganisms
themselves are harder to grow in the winter, so we keep a higher
percentage of them around all winter long” to compensate.

She added that the wastewater coming into the plant is fairly warm already when compared to the environment around it, and that helps “keep the bugs alive until spring.”

Hat tip to Southerly’s own Nick Fillipelli for the photo, and to Christen Wood for passing it our way.