August 01 2012

Inside the Spokane Sewer Treatment Plant’s Facelift: Neighboring State Park Breathes Sigh of Relief

Spokane, Washington Water Treatment Plant

Spokane, Washington was given the land for its wastewater treatment plant and Riverside State Park by an affluent citizen in his will in the first half of the 20th century. He designated the land’s division and only allowed the City to keep the land if they used it for those sole two reasons. The only issue  is: The land he designated to be the sewer treatment facility is upriver and within view from the land he designated to be a park, creating a mess if outdated facilities continue to be used.

In 2004, a City of Spokane sewage employee was killed in the rupture of a standard, circular, above-ground digester. Acting quickly to uphold employee safety and the city’s wastewater service level, the City began to build onto their over 50-year-streak of constant renovation and construction by planning to add a unique solution that would solve both of these hot-button issues. Two egg-shaped digesters were completed and began service in the fall of 2008 to the tune of $500 million- completely free of debt! Some of the funding comes from a $13 surcharge for sewer services, but most is derived from investment. All of the City of Spokane’s wastewater treatment department is funded independently and without debt.

The usual smell associated with these plants is a nonissue because the egg-shaped digester is completely enclosed. Noise for park-goers is a thing of the past now that the pumps are underground. The digesters demand a certain curiosity from the surrounding natural landscape, as they are the most complicated concrete project Spokane has ever seen. 2004′s incident is no longer feared to happen again, as the digester is designed to minimize foaming. In an unforeseen disaster, dikes around the grounds will protect direct spillage into the Spokane river.

The renovations have appeased downriver campers and wildlife observers, city citizens with efficient running costs and safe maintenance, homeowners all around the ravine are happy to see more tree cover and varying earthy shades of paint rather than a stark white. Honestly, having taken a tour myself, one could easily mistake the grounds for a swanky “wellness resort,” or perhaps an affluent schoolyard- but most definitely not a sewer treatment facility.

Have you toured your city’s wastewater treatment plant(s)? How would you describe your city’s plant(s) to an out-of-towner?

Credits: Image and data linked to sources.

Aascot Holt

Aascot Holt is an undergraduate at Eastern Washington University, pursuing a major in Urban and Regional Planning and a minor in Geography. She will graduate in the spring of 2013. She is from Stevenson, WA and currently lives in Spokane, WA in a brick 1936 kit house. She is most intrigued by small-city and small town planning, parks and recreation planning, long-range planning, and historic preservation. She hopes to continue her habit of being involved with many planning projects at a time, and fears being pigeonholed. Aascot maintains the “Being A Planning Student” Tumblr as well as her planning-centric blog, The Comprehensive. She is currently writing Cheney, WA’s entirely new comprehensive parks, recreation, and trails plan, completely pro bono. More can be learned about her endeavors via LinkedIn.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 1st, 2012 at 10:38 am and is filed under Content, Engineering, Environment, Environmental Design, Government/Politics, Infrastructure, Land Use, Technology, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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2 Responses to “Inside the Spokane Sewer Treatment Plant’s Facelift: Neighboring State Park Breathes Sigh of Relief”

  1. Ron Trygar, CET Says:

    Great job on this piece Aascot! I wish more people would take notice of thier town’s infrastructure and wastewater treatment facilities. I like the photo you included, certainly gives the plant an intriguing look!
    Ron T

  2. Aascot Holt Says:

    Thank you, Ron! I was inspired by my capital facilities course which toured this facility as well as many other public facilities in Spokane.

    Best wishes,
    Aascot Holt

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