Public Works and Environmental Services

Fairfax County, Virginia

CONTACT INFORMATION: Our administrative offices are open Mon – Fri by phone, email, and virtual 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Front-desk hours 9 a.m. – noon.

12000 Government Center Parkway
Suite 358, Fairfax, Va 22035

Judy Fincham,
Outreach Coordinator

Sewer Science Program

students conducting sewer science experiments

Who wants to talk about wastewater?

We do! Employees of the Wastewater Management Department want to bring a two-day, hands-on Sewer Science lab to your schools. Originally developed by the City of Palo Alto, California, the Sewer Science program allows students to create and treat wastewater, discuss all the “Do Not Flush” materials that cause sewer backups and blockages in more than 3,400 miles of sanitary sewer lines located in Fairfax County, and hopefully gain an appreciation for how wastewater treatment plants are working to protect, restore, and enhance human health and the environment.

All the materials and supplies needed for the lab, including student and teacher workbooks, are supplied by Fairfax County Wastewater Management. All you need to supply is a class full of students that want to learn.

How does it work?

The lab is designed to support the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) initiatives. It is completed during two 90-minute classes or four 50-minute classes. The goal of the program is to help students learn how the municipal wastewater treatment process works. We do this by having the class create wastewater out of household ingredients that simulate waste found in real wastewater. Then, we work through the physical, biological, and chemical processes used at a treatment plant to clean that water.

Students will learn:

  • Primary Treatment (Physical process of settling)
  • Secondary Treatment (Biological process – using microorganisms to reduce ammonia)
  • Advanced Treatment (Physical process of filtration and Chemical process for disinfection)

In order to determine how each process helps clean our wastewater, the students will learn how to perform water quality testing for pH, ammonia, turbidity, and chemical oxygen demand (COD). Each of these parameters helps maintain a healthy environment in the receiving waters where our wastewater is discharged after treatment.

Is this right for my class?

We have two versions of the Sewer Science lab designed for middle school and high school students.

Maureen Goble, Lake Braddock High School Science Dept. Chair, describes Sewer Science Lab (1.20 min video)


Sign me up!

To learn more information on the Sewer Science program or to request the lab at your school, call 703-550-9740, ext 1406251 (TTY 711) or email Wastewater Management Outreach.

Fairfax Virtual Assistant