The Rapidian

Grand Rapids offers free tours of acclaimed Water Resource Recovery Facility

City’s aim is to help spur understanding of infrastructure’s importance
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When: Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016, from 10:00 AM to 11:30 AM (EDT) - Add to Calendar

Where: Grand Rapids Water Resource Recovery Facility, 1300 Market Ave. SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503 - View Map

Register: Online at http://bit.ly/GR-UOTFTour

A final clarifier is used during secondary treatment where microorganisms settle to the bottom while clean water moves up.

A final clarifier is used during secondary treatment where microorganisms settle to the bottom while clean water moves up. /City of Grand Rapids

Sandra Buchner is a chemist for the City of Grand Rapids Environmental Services Department who leads the tours.

Sandra Buchner is a chemist for the City of Grand Rapids Environmental Services Department who leads the tours. /City of Grand Rapids

The primary tanks where heavy solids settle to the bottom and scum rises to the top.

The primary tanks where heavy solids settle to the bottom and scum rises to the top. /City of Grand Rapids

The City of Grand Rapids Environmental Services Department is providing the public with a unique opportunity to explore and learn about the city’s national award-winning Grand Rapids Water Resource Recovery Facility (WRRF) by attending a free, 90-minute guided tour.

The next public tour of the facility, located at 1300 Market Ave. SW, starts at 10 a.m. on Saturday, September 24, and will also guide visitors through the facility's River of Dreams Rain Garden, one of three located on the property.

Sandra Buchner, an Environmental Services chemist and recipient of the Michigan Water Environment Association 2015 Educational Professional of the Year Award for exemplary professionalism and promotion of water resource learning, leads the public tours.

“Sanitary sewage treatment is an essential part of Grand Rapids’ health and ecology infrastructure,” Buchner said. “Visitors will learn how water is cleaned throughout every step of the treatment process. We'll also talk about the numerous projects we oversee to create a greener Grand Rapids.”

In addition to her duties as a laboratory chemist at the WRRF, Buchner is available to deliver free tours of the facility for Grand Rapids students in third grade and above as well as public tours for groups of city residents. During her 11-year career with the department, city records show Buchner has provided environmental instruction to more than 12,000 tour patrons. You can request a tour for you group online.

During the 1960s, the dumping by Grand Rapids of as much as 12.6 billion gallons of raw sewage each year into the Grand River sparked a national controversy. Today, the city’s completion of a state-of-the-art, nearly $400 million wastewater treatment system is heralded by industry experts nationally for eliminating 100 percent of sanitary sewer water pollutants from entering the river.

Among the tour highlights is the facility’s River of Dreams Rain Garden. The rain garden uses native plants that allow rainwater runoff from the roofs of the surrounding buildings, driveways, walkways and parking lots to be absorbed into the plants and ground so that any pollutants will dissipate before ending up in the Grand River.

The facility was constructed in 1931 and has been expanded over the years. The City of Grand Rapids Environmental Services Department now provides service to 11 communities and treats about 40 million gallons of water daily. The facility uses energy recovery to heat and cool the administration building and is currently working on installing new technology in renewable energy.

The City of Grand Rapids “Utility of the Future Today” tours are limited to 40 attendees. There is no admission to attend, but there is a limit so registration is required. The tour begins with an indoor presentation on the wastewater treatment process followed by an outdoor walking tour of the plant. Attendees are encouraged to dress for the weather.

If you'd like to attend the Sept. 24 event, please register now as space is limited. To learn more about the tours, call 616-456-​30​00 or visit here.

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