Centralia Students Enjoy the Chehalis River Discovery Trail and the City of Centralia’s Wastewater Treatment Plant


Submitted by Washington Elementary School.

On Wednesday and Thursday, May 18 and 19, 125 fourth-grade students from Washington Elementary School (WES) participated in field studies along the Chehalis River Discovery Trail and enjoyed tours of the City of Centralia’s wastewater treatment plant. The field experiences were made possible by a partnership with the Chehalis River Basin Land Trust and through a generous grant funded by the Pacific Northwest Clean Water Association’s “Adopt-a-School” grant program.

Students experienced a variety of field studies. Photo courtesy of Kathy Jacobson.

The wastewater treatment plant tour included a visit to the City’s lab and outdoor facilities. During the tour, informative wastewater treatment plant discussed the water cycle, and nutrient cycle; wastewater treatment and human health; human impacts to water systems, and pollution prevention and water conservation during the tour.

As the WES students had conducted water quality monitoring along the Skookumchuck River in the fall and winter, they were excited to learn that that they were familiar with much of the terminology used by City staff. Students discovered that their own water quality monitoring included the parameters of dissolved oxygen, fecal coliform bacteria, temperature was also used by the City in its testing of wastewater.

Students also saw the large piles of “compost” (biosolids) that is now used for growing crops, and learned that in the past this valuable material was treated with lime and landfilled. Students also learned how the treated it water (effluent) met water quality standards for humans and wildlife and where it was released into the Chehalis River.

This was the first tour of a wastewater treatment plant that the students had ever taken. Students shared that they now have a much better idea of what happens to their water after they flush, or take a shower, or wash the dishes. The students also learned that fresh water is used over and over again for many, many uses.

Students studied water quality as part of this experience. Photo courtesy of Kathy Jacobson.

On the Chehalis River Discovery Trail, students were so excited to walk the trail see and hear the resident pair of bald eagles. Three different groups were able to observe one of the eagles catch a fish from the river! One very bubbly and smiling boy said, “I have waited my whole life to see a bald eagle!” The fourth graders had been studying about Washington State native plants and animals and were very eager to find their plant or see evidence of their animal!

This field experience was also made possible through the talents and enthusiasm of USFWS AmeriCorps members, and land trust volunteers.

For more information on the CRBLT and the Chehalis River Discovery Trail, and how you can get involved, or tour the trail, please contact CRBLT at Chehalislandtrust@yahoo.com.

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