Friday, February 27, 2015

Photo Essay: The Final Frontier for LA's Wastewater

There are a lot of opportunities to get interstellar in and around LA – whether at a star party at Mount Wilson or at the planetarium at Griffith Observatory, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, or places like Vasquez Rocks which have doubled as other planets for movies and TV shows like Star Trek.



Or you can go to Van Nuys to jump forward in time to the year 2161 to visit Star Trek's official training ground for future recruits: Starfleet Academy.



But this isn't actually San Francisco in the year 2161, it's 2015 at the Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant, which processes some of LA's wastewater to relieve the load of the area's main sewage plant, Hyperion.



The plant's administration building is widely considered the finest work of architect Anthony J. Lumsden, known for his futuristic style...



...as well as for his design of the Hyperion Wastewater Treatment Plant and the LA Times Olympic printing plant.



Both buildings are also considered unappreciated, because they are rarely seen by the public.



Completed in 1985, the administration building has a wonderfully 1960s modernist feel...



...with maybe a touch of brutalism with all that poured concrete...



...particularly in the walkway and viewing tower...



...that are cantilevered over the manmade lake in the Japanese Garden next door. (More on that later.)



The building houses administrative staff and their offices, as well as the control room for the engineers who run the plant.



The real action happens hidden from view, behind the administration building...



...where hard hats are required...



...and puddles of rainwater reflect the puffy clouds in the sky.



Waste water (i.e. toilet water) gets pumped into here from the sewers (with a little rainwater spillage too)...



...for solids (inorganic objects like plastics and coins, biosolids like poop) to be removed...



...and shipped down through a pipe via gravity to Hyperion for treatment and/or disposal.



Here, like at Hyperion, the de-pooped water is filtered...



...making sure all sludge and bad bacteria have been removed...



...and producing a pretty gross-looking foam.



It's hard to believe how expansive their facility is...



...and yet you'd never know it was there...



...tucked away near the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve and in the Sepulveda Flood Control Basin...



...by the shores of Lake Balboa and the headwaters of the LA River...



...both of which receive reclaimed water from the plant.



The entire property feels a bit space age...



...from the Chlorination Building...



...where the water is essentially bleached...



...and gets rid of that distinctive poop odor...



...to the dechlorination building, where the bleach is removed.



Apparently, through their triple filtration process, they get the water so clean here, our drinking water would contaminate it if mixed together (as is true at the West Basin water recycling plant too).



But people aren't ready to make that mental leap of "From Toilet to Tap." Even though all water on the earth – from the ocean to the clouds – is technically toilet water. Nothing ever goes away – whether it gets dumped into the ocean or evaporates into the air or runs down the drain.

With a Vulcan salute in memory of Leonard Nimoy.

For more photos of our adventure, click here.

Related Posts:
EVENT: A Sci-Fi Sewage Sanctuary - with Obscura Society LA
Photo Essay: Hyperion Wastewater Treatment Plant
Photo Essay: West Basin Water Recycling Facility
Photo Essay: Keeping LA's Water Supply Drinkable (And Accessible)
Los Angeles River's Beautiful Ugly