Kids play, and learn, with water

The wonders of wind and wastewater provided lessons in Monday’s first StandUp4Water Awareness day.

Fiona Wylde, 16, organized the all-day fun-and-education event on the waterfront, attended by 40 young people, from age 8 to teenagers.

“It was a complete success. There was a lot of wind but everyone had so much fun,” said Wylde, who organized the day with the help from a $1,300 grant from the community-supported Kids Gorge Soup benefit meal in February.

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SUP4Water participants do water quality testing at Waterfront Park, with help from CH2M-Hill’s Gary Duree, right. They checked pH, dissolved oxygen and turbidity in water samples from the Hood River, The Hook, the Columbia, and Boat Basin.

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Participants in SUP4Water also got on the water, riding the waves at the beach, and holding races and relays using their new stand-up paddling skills.

The wind blew from 9 a.m., at the start, to 3 p.m., when the participants finished up. The wastewater kept running, too, of course, and as part of the event the youngsters got to see it up close.

The day started with paddle training at Hood River Waterfront Park. Stand-up paddling can be tricky when there is wind, but they more than met the challenge as they were introduced to a sport that is quickly growing in popularity.

“It was definitely more difficult than we anticipated, but we kind of conquered that, and the kids did really well,” said Hannah Hill, 13, who competes with Wylde on the Big Winds stand-up paddling team. Wylde competes as a windsurfer, and scored well in Saturday and Sunday’s Gorge Cup races.

Hill said, “It was fun to watch them go through that process of getting the hang of it, because that was me a couple of years ago.”

Wylde said many of the students not only mastered standing up and paddling, but doing so on waves. The kids held races and what Wylde called “mini-downwinders” to test their newfound skills

The paddling was followed by lunch courtesy of Andrew’s Pizza, and then the youngsters took a tour of the City of Hood River wastewater treatment plant, 200 yards away.

In the visit to the plant, the SUP4WaterAwareness participants learned that the solids processed at the plant are 90 percent water. Three employees of Veolia, a Portland-based firm that contracts with cities to provide water treatment plant services, helped with the afternoon’s main event, water quality tests from samples from The Hook, Nichols Boat Basin, the Columbia, and the Hood River.

Aaron Craft and Tom Hubbard, who work for Veolia at the municipal plants in Vancouver and Wilsonville, and John Herron, a Veolia employee and Hood River resident, led the kids through the process of sampling three water quality measures: pH (potential hydrogen), DO (dissolved oxygen) and turbidity (the impact of particulates on water clarity).

Wearing protective gloves, the participants divided into four groups of 10 and measured and recorded pH, DO and turbidity. The kids and also had help from the CH2M-Hill crew from the treatment plant.

“This way we looked at four distinct bodies of water, to see if there may or may not be any differences,” said Herron, who reminded the participants that the water quality conditions can change from day to day, not just area to area. The participants got to take the kits home with them, and Herron said they may come back and test the waters at other times of the year to see the changes.

“We just want them to ask the questions, such as what might be the differences, just to get them thinking,” he said.

“Once you start thinking about what causes it and where it may come from, that’s where you make the changes,” he said. “Once you learn about what should and should not go down the drain, at your house, or your school, we can start having an effect.”

He said he wants to get the students thinking about the impacts on the environment not only of water use and discharge, but of what it takes to move, treat and dispose of water; this consumes a collective 17 percent of U.S. energy, Herron said.

“The more we can keep from discharging into our rivers, the more it benefits everyone,” he said.

Wylde said, “A lot of the kids have a better grasp and now they’re able to come back here and actually test the water and see what are the numbers are saying. People always talk about ‘There’s this E. coli thing,’ but look at numbers and actually apply that to a thought process.

“I think it was a great success I was really glad so many kids showed up,” she said.

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