Friday, July 11, 2008

Water Water Everywhere...(but trust me, you don't want to drink a drop of THIS)

Today BOCOG (Beijing Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games), the group for which I volunteer, took began its 3-day tour of Beijing for its 300 international student volunteers.

Let's just say it was quite an interesting start!

At 9 am we hopped on a bus, bound for Tsinghua Water Treatment Plant, which serves 800,000 people. Can you just do me a favor and imagine the 40,000 pounds of squishy, floating brown gunk? A treatment plant that serves an area with 800,000 people is an interesting way to start anyone's morning, indeed. We even saw watermelon seeds floating on the surface. Yummy.

Some quotes from the water plant:

As we walked on metal grids above the initial treatment stage and looked at oxygen and bacteria bubbling to the surface...

Nick C: Oh my god, there are actually life preservers on the railings! Crap, if I fall in that water, just let me drown.

Justin G: Look! Watermelon seeds!

Me: I think I'm going to get sick--seriously, can someone tell a quick story to distract me for a moment?

Cameron: Once there was a girl who really loved to draw. But she had no fingers. So she prayed to the god of war for fingers. He sent her to this plant and she never asked for anything else again.

Nick R: MMM, raging torrents of poop.

Me: This kind of reminds me of the scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory...

A few of the signs were pretty good, too. We saw the "Blower Room" and the "Dosing Room", both of which seemed pretty dangerous and made obnoxious noises. We ran out of them as quickly as we curiously entered them.

Truth be told, it was a very nice tour. I've visited a water treatment plant 3 previous times, but this one was more interesting---it was built in 2004, so it was very new. The tour guides were very nice, and red army guards saluted our group as we walked by (note: definitely the first time I've seen any type of military personnel in a water treatment facility). Workers at the plant also had samples of water from each of the sanitation stages so we could see progression. I will try to upload a picture, but I'm having difficulty uploading photos here.

It was a fine tour, but I'm just curious as to why BOCOG sent us to a water treatment plant. I mean, like I said earlier, a treatment plan which sees 40,000 pounds of crap each day and holds it for 13 days isn't exactly a scintillating destination for a glamorous morning tour of a city. My initial thought is to prove that, yes, China DOES clean its water, despite the scrutiny it faces for its pollution. Perhaps I was not impressed because I've visited 3 other water treatment plants before and once you've seen one, you've seen them all. And seeing the water treatment plant doesn't mean I'm going to start drinking the tap water here; my Chinese friends don't even drink tap here.

It reminded me of that old saying/poem, "water water everywhere, but not a drink".

I was grateful for the bottles of water on the bus today. ;)

1 comment:

Carolyn said...

Are you living in the Olympic Village? What is it like? What are the prices of food items, etc. How about the sleeping conditions?...I can't wait to hear all the details of this experience!