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be the sewer treatment facility is upriver and within view from the land he designated to be a park, creating a mess if outdated facilities continue to be used.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?