By Jessie Forand/ECHO  Robert Fischer, Water Quality Superintendent for the South Burlington Water Quality Department, holds samples o...

Water Quality Day 2016

By Jessie Forand/ECHO 

Robert Fischer, Water Quality Superintendent for the South Burlington Water Quality Department, holds samples of water taken before (right) and after entering the Airport Parkway treatment facility. (Photo: Jessie Forand/ECHO) 

As he walked local leaders through his facility, Bob Fischer, superintendent of the City of South Burlington Water Quality Department on Airport Parkway said, “This is the most expensive thing in town.”

Despite the fact water treatment is the greatest expense for a South Burlington resident, many have never visited the facility to really see what happens.

Fischer’s group tour was part of the Water Quality Day celebration Friday in Vermont, as declared by Governor Peter Shumlin earlier this year. A few dozen third graders were set to stop by later for an inside look.

The Airport Parkway Water Quality Facility in South Burlington was one of 10 facilities of its kind to lead tours.

Fischer offered information as they about a dozen tour-goers followed him through the expansive facility. For example, the water put out at Airport Parkway is in fact much cleaner than that of the Winooski River, which flows nearby.

“We are the boots-on-the-ground environmentalists,” Fischer said, a dedicated crew who takes clean water and the health of Vermont that stems from it very seriously.

Robert Fischer shows off bio solids created at the Airport Parkway Water Quality Facility.
(Photo: Jessie Forand/ECHO) 
While Fischer explained that water treatment is one of the most energy-intensive elements of any municipality, the South Burlington plant goes to great lengths to keep usage down.  While on the tour, the digester building was actually producing an incredible 40 kilowatts of energy.

A methane-powered turbine and a $28 million upgrade in 2011 has helped significantly and the facility now spends less on its operating budget as a result. Class A bio solids are captured, meaning those materials can be used by local agriculture partners instead of ending up in the Coventry landfill.

As he walked through rooms containing “a lot of very expensive things,” Fischer explained 99.8 percent of materials flowing in to the plant are simply water – from showers, homes’ use, and so on.

Once the water has arrived, the solids are separated and bacteria, aerobic and anaerobic, goes to work in the live facility; it’s really an ecosystem in itself.

Fischer imparted some important lessons during his tour – included a tale of baby wipes that didn’t end well. Long story short… don’t do it. Ever. Baby wipes and other cleaning wipes are not intended to be flushed and doing so causes environmental problems and backups, plus could plug a house’s septic system and prove costly.

“When it doubt, toss it out,” he said.

Tours of the facility are available to the public. To learn more about what is happening in your community, contact Robert Fischer in South Burlington or your local water quality department.  

A plane flies overhead during a tour of the Airport Parkway Water Quality Facility in South Burlington Friday, May 27. (Photo: Jessie Forand/ECHO)

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