By Jackie Chen
On October 30, a group of ESA sophomores went on a field trip to the East Bay Municipal Utilities District (EBMUD), to learn how Oakland’s wastewater treatment facilities work.
They took a tour around the government-owned facility, which is designated as “critical infrastructure,” which meant that they were not allowed to take photos of anything there. They learned about the different steps to treating wastewater, and experienced the less-than-pleasant smell of some of the steps there.
“I saw some really interesting things, like how tomato plants grew here and there around the facility,” said Han Ngo, an ESA sophomore who went on the trip. “It was also cool how they could turn poop into electricity, and how they used bacteria in the water to make bubbles.”
Before the site was built in the 1950s, all of Oakland’s raw sewage was sent into the San Francisco Bay. The dumped waste hurt the surrounding wildlife, and it also created a stench that would be carried by the wind to residential areas. This included San Francisco, which even issued warnings to wear masks whenever the wind blew in from Oakland when this was still a problem, according to an employee at the facility.
The facility was constructed in the 1950s and now treats the wastewater of about 650,000 residents. On average, the site processes 60 million gallons of wastewater each day, which is increased to around 300 million when it rains.
“It’s important for young ESA students to be able to learn about different careers that are connected to what they’re learning in class,” said Tatiana Newman-Wade, a work-based learning liaison at Oakland High. “It gives them more exposure to career path opportunities that can require a four-year degree, a two-year degree, or even no degree.”
EBMUD employs people in a wide range of jobs, 404 according to EBMUD’s official site, with yearly pay ranging from $53,916 to $262,896 depending on the job and your experience.