Our visit to the Wastewater Heritage Centre

HEdNI Kids at the Wastewater Heritage Centre

Today we visited the Wastewater Heritage Centre in Belfast. This is owned by NI Water.

First, we learnt about the sewage systems of the past.  The toilets in Roman times were quite hygienic as they had water running under them. It was not all good though, as the sewage ran into a river and polluted it, spreading diseases such as cholera.

The Medieval times were a bit better. If you were rich you had private toilets and the sewage plopped into a moat. The waste was then shovelled out of the moat by men and into a nearby river. The poor people used a bucket and threw their sewage on to the street. You just had to hope you weren’t passing by when a bucket was slopped out.

The Victorian times were better again. Sewers were available to the rich in the early Victorian era. The poor had to use privies, which were outside in their very small yards. The men who cleaned them were called the “Midnight Angels”, coming to clean them at night.

After learning about the history of our sewage system they told us about the 3 p’s, toilet paper, poo and pee. These are the only things which should be flushed down a toilet.

We then had a tour of the water treatment works which showed us how our modern day sewage system works. When the waste arrives at the treatment works it is screened to sort out the waste from other items, such as wipes, which shouldn’t be flushed down toilets. The next stage is to let the poo sink to the bottom and the water remain at the top. The water is then drained out and completely cleaned before being pumped into the lough. The poo left is treated using bugs to remove bacteria. Once the bugs have done their work the poo is taken to the incinerators and burned at 853 degrees. The only incinerators in Northern Ireland are in Belfast and so lorries arrive from all over the country every day with waste for incineration.

It was an amazing day, it was very interesting and we learnt a lot about waste.

Myles Taylor (age 10)