Ball Hockey Thursdays

I haven't mentioned it before, but I've been playing informal ball hockey in the parking lot on Thursday evenings since fall last year. It's fun, perhaps because I've never played it before, so it's all new. Most of the players are from our building neighbours at Joan Holmes and Associates, with just a few Artechees joining in depending on how busy work is and whether any computer games are being played in the office - the typical 5 pm start time conflicts with after-hours network game playing (World of Warcraft is the current massively online addiction). The hockey group is quite varied, from people with lots of experience and skill to people there for a bit of exercise and fun - obviously we try to balance the sides with whomever shows up. Some of them even bring their children along after work, though play slows down a lot when one of the really little kids gets the ball and needs to be gently encouraged to move it along in the right direction.

Last week was our first hot weather day. I thought it would be pretty bad, but I didn't get too hot, perhaps because I wasn't moving as fast as usual. However, near the end of the game, everyone else had slowed down enough that I was able to get in a breakaway all the way across to the other side, with a flurry of shots and rebounds on the goaltender, who had to sweat a bit to keep me from scoring! The rest of the time I was playing on the defence, learning to predict the movements of the other players by looking for their potential opportunities, and blocking them. Fortunately one of the players is also a good coach, making tactical suggestions and pointing out things that novice I didn't even think of. The perfect bookend to the game was a visit to the nearby Royal Oak for an iced tea and some ice cream.

Open Doors - Britannia Water Purification Plant

[Clear Plastic Water Bottle with a label saying Bottled: Britannia Water Purification Plant, Ottawa, Canada]This year's waterworks vist was to Britannia, which hadn't been open the last time I remembered to go out on the Open Doors weekend. I'd been there last in the 1960's, since then there have been several plant expansions and changes. I had a look at new wing of water settling and filtering ponds they added in the late 1980s, though the tour unfortunately didn't include their pumping equipment. As a bonus, they gave away water bottles, pointing out that their water was better than commercial stuff (higher standards than the food standards) and only cost 1/40 a cent for a bottle. Though if you don't want that choloramine taste and don't mind sodium levels a couple of times higher than tap water...

It's nice to see that they're being smart about things. Simple stuff like making giant cone shaped depressions in the new settling tank bottom, so they can drain off the sludge while the process is running rather than having to stop the process (and throw out several dozen swimming pools worth of water) to dispose of a giant dune of sludge in the former square tank design. They've also moved chlorination to a later step in the process, so that they don't waste chemicals or generate carcinogenic byproducts when clorinating stuff that's getting filtered out anyway. Early chlorination apparently was just a tradition that came from the fear of untreated water. They've also got a small research waterworks set up in a giant room, with two sets of everything so that they can compare new mixtures of filtering sand with the old ones, try out different chemicals, and otherwise improve things. They're really on the ball there!

There were the usual photos of the old system and lots of maps showing water pressure, time delay and all sorts of other measurements that they make on the whole distribution network. It's comforting to know that they're always measuring water quality at various test stations around the network - both for accidental contamination and the unlikely case of sabotage by terrorists. The worst hazards seem actually to be from construction accidents - getting dirt inside a broken fire hydrant was the big one last year. The test summaries for each year are even available online.

Now I know why those guys go around drilling small holes in the city streets - it's the anti-corrosion department. I had a nice chat with an engineering student there who explained their attempts to reduced rusting in the iron water mains by placing cathodic metal chunks to change the underground electro-chemistry so that the cathodic stuff would rust before the pipes would. Of course, they're also moving to 150mm plastic pipe for a large part of the distribution network, but the main lines are steel or reinforced concrete (which has steel rebar). As well, they go around measuring the electical potential between the pipes and the earth (road-salty and wet in spring) to keep track of corrosion problems. Interestingly enough, there's usually a magnesium rod in your hot water heater to do the same thing - after about a decade it has disolved completely and your water heater starts rusting. Maybe that's why they only last about 10 years!

After that, and some more chatting with the people there, I walked home along the river parkway path. There's a connecting path from the plant through Mud Lake to the bike path. Though that being Sunday, the bikes were on the parkway and the pathway was mostly full of pedestrians (a senior's walk near Lincoln Fileds) and inline skaters. Fine weather too - sunny, warm, dry with a bit of a breeze. Lots of people carrying water bottles.

- Alex

Copyright © 2005 by Alexander G. M. Smith.