Sewer Science Teacher Training Project

A CWEA P3S Special Project Awardee Event Update

Twelve high school teachers from the Los Angeles Unified School District participated in the “Sewer Science Program Teachers Workshop” on June 27th, 2015 at the Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant (DCWRP) located in Van Nuys, California. The workshop was conducted by the LA Sanitation engineers. The purpose of the workshop is to guide, assist, and train participating teachers about the City of Los Angeles’ Sewer Science Program. The goal of the workshop is to empower and encourage teachers to conduct the sewer science classes themselves in their respective classroom as part of their science curriculum, and to extend the resources to reach more schools and students.

Senior Operator explaining the treatment process to teachers before the tour

Sewer Science is an inter-disciplinary microbiology, chemistry, physics and environmental curriculum designed to stress the importance of pollution prevention in the City’s communities. A primary goal of the program is to raise the communities’ awareness of the environment and the consequences of pollution. The ultimate goal is to achieve cleaner wastewater and stormwater run-off, thereby reducing future capital and maintenance costs for City’s wastewater and stormwater treatment systems.

The week-long Sewer Science Program (1 hour per day) delivers the message of pollution prevention by taking a mobile lab unit into high school and college science classrooms to simulate primary, secondary and advanced wastewater treatment processes. Students and teachers are provided with an opportunity to perform hands-on instrumental analysis, and are introduced to other scientific concepts as a way to directly link pollution prevention efforts with the City’s treatment of wastewater. Tests are performed at every stage of the treatment process and results are graphed to visually show the effects of treatment. These results are compared to EPA standards to indicate even the simplest treatment system can have a great impact on wastewater. At the conclusion of the course, teachers and students are invited to tour a City of Los Angeles wastewater treatment facility.

Teachers touring the DCT treatment plant

Sewer Science has received rave reviews from students and teachers throughout the United States. In 2004, the American Public Works Association (APWA) – Southern California Chapter awarded the City of Los Angeles Sewer Science Program with the Project of the Year. In 2005, the Los Angeles Council of Engineers and Scientists (LACES) honored the City’s Sewer Science Program with the Harry Staubs Award. In 2007, the Sewer Science Video Resource Program received the National Environmental Achievement Award from the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA). Since its inception in the City of Los Angeles in 2003, the City’s Sewer Science Program has reached fifty five schools, conducted 489 classroom instructions, and taught 20,275 students. The goal is to reach out to more than 200 high schools within the City of Los Angeles wastewater service area.

The Sewer Science Program Teachers Workshop was a full day of training, all hands on, and included all teaching and learning materials used for the classroom. These materials included the mobile laboratory equipment and supplies, teacher and student workbooks, and Sewer Science Video Resource Program. Teachers were trained on the following: Introduction to wastewater treatment; Primary treatment; Secondary treatment; Advanced treatment; and Laboratory testing and data analysis. The workshop concluded with a tour of the DCTWRP.

The City of Los Angeles Sewer Science Program is administered by the LA Sanitation, Industrial Waste Management Division (IWMD). The California Water Environment Association (CWEA) Pretreatment, Pollution Prevention, and Stormwater (P3S) Committee awarded the Program with a grant and provided financial support to the 2015 Sewer Science Teachers Workshop. This grant was used to compensate the participating teachers. By supporting the Sewer Science Program, the P3S Committee seeks to groom future generation of environmental leaders and to advance knowledge and understanding about the environment especially in the field of water pollution source control.


Written by: Michael A. Simpson, P.E.
Assistant Division Manager
City of Los Angeles Department of Public Works-Bureau of Sanitation

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Megan Barillo

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