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City Of Fargo: Beauty Below The Surface

Beauty goes beyond the surface. This is a true statement in many contexts. A killer personality can trump a pretty face, for example. The filling of a pecan pie is undoubtedly the tastiest part of the pastry. But think for a moment about everything going on underneath our streets in Fargo and how important it is for every resident of the metro. More specifically, let’s take a look at the water main network. It may not be the most appealing topic, but it’s definitely a thing of beauty.

​Allow me to set the stage for a moment. Most people don’t realize how massive and intricate the water main system is in Fargo. The mains cover so much area, if each pipe was laid end to end, it would reach 500 miles; half the distance to Frisco, Texas. The Fargo Wastewater Treatment Plant treats more than 12 million gallons of wastewater on an average day. About 97 percent of that water comes from residential sources in Fargo and West Fargo such as water from sinks, toilets and floor drains. That’s 18 Olympic sized swimming pools worth of wastewater treated each average day.

But Fargo’s wastewater treatment system isn’t just huge. It’s also quite effective. The water released back into the river after the Wastewater Treatment plant sanitizes it is extremely clean and surpasses industry standards. The treated wastewater typically has fewer contaminants than the water coming into Fargo from upstream on the Red River. This is made possible by a rigorous sanitation process.

It begins with the removal of any solids in the water. The Fargo Wastewater Treatment Plant uses mechanical and biological strategies to remove them from the wastewater. In plain English, raw sewage passes through a screen that filters out large pieces of debris. Then the water is pumped into a vortex (like a tornado) which separates and removes other gritty materials. From there, the water has air pumped into it to help organic material in the water float to the top. The water then travels through seven clarifiers, which further skim materials out. After that, the water is pumped through two filters containing bacteria that eat some of the organic waste in the water. The water is then chlorinated and dechlorinated. Removed solids are dried out and sent to the landfill, while the clean water is returned to the Red River.​

Some of the key cogs in this “machine” are the City’s lift stations. Roughly 70 of these stations are positioned across Fargo. Lift stations pump the wastewater into the City’s collection system. These stations are incredibly effective at dealing with the demands of Fargo and West Fargo’s wastewater needs. But on occasion things can go wrong.​

The Fargo Wastewater Department utilizes tracking within all of its lift stations to know when they need maintenance. From time-to-time, the lift stations can become clogged with debris which isn’t meant to be flushed down the drain. Wipes, rags, personal hygiene products and other – more unmentionable – items can create massive blockages in the lift stations. Those wads of junk can measure nearly six feet tall and have to be cleared by wastewater crews. It’s important to remember what goes down your drain doesn’t simply disappear. Many clogs can be prevented if people are mindful of what they’re flushing.

​As long as there has been humanity, there has been a need to get rid of the waste created by people. Today, the City can easily and effectively get rid of any wastewater residents need. Miles and miles of piping the average person never even seen take care of it with maximal efficiency. All things considered, the whole system is a thing of beauty.

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