February 11, 2015

EVENT: A Sci-Fi Sewage Sanctuary - with Obscura Society LA

Photo by Rye'n (Flickr)

I love to crowdsource ideas for my adventures, and over the last four years in LA, people keep telling me to go to the sewage treatment plant with the Japanese Garden.

I know.

But I've already visited two other water recycling facilities, and it's in the same area as the Sepulveda Dam which I love, so let's go.

Besides, the gorgeous Administration Building is a fine architectural point of interest, its futuristic-looking concrete curves cantilevered over a man-made lake full of poop water. It's so cinematic that Star Trek location scouts chose it to represent Starfleet Academy (and then CGI'ed in the Golden Gate Bridge behind it to make it look like it's San Francisco).

This place is even weirder than I thought. I can't wait to check it out.

See the official event listing here:

Everybody poops, and in a sprawling metropolis as big as LA, all that poop water has to go somewhere – so why not a garden?

On Monday, February 23, join field agent Sandi Hemmerlein (me!) on an epic voyage to a wastewater treatment plant in Van Nuys, whose recycled water reaches its final frontier either at the Hyperion Treatment Plant in Playa Del Rey, or next door in its own Japanese Garden – which is aptly referred to as the "garden of water and fragrance," and which is irrigated with reclaimed water from the plant.

If you join the Los Angeles Obscura Society on this excursion, you'll come out smelling like a rose...or, at least, like bougainvillea.

One of the leading producers of reclaimed water in the San Fernando Valley, The Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant recycles as much as 26 million gallons of poop water per day, relieving the overburdened portions of the wastewater collection system between the San Fernando Valley and Hyperion. Although few get to tour its sprawling campus, many recognize its futuristic Administration Building as a shooting location for numerous films and television shows, including as Star Trek's Starfleet Academy.

On our private hard hat tour of the treatment facility, one of the plant's own engineers will show us how they separate solids from the wastewater, which is then filtered and disinfected in a process that takes nearly a half day. We'll then tour the 6.5 acre garden, which was designed by world-famous designer Dr. Koichi Kawana, also responsible for Japanese botanical gardens at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and San Diego's Balboa Park. Kawana fashioned this garden after “stroll gardens” constructed during the 18th and 19th centuries for Japanese Feudal lords.

On our stroll, we'll witness the 2.75 acre lake that is filled with the plant's treated water, and a waterfall, which is the main entry of water from the reclamation plant into the lake, where about three million gallons of reclaimed water pass through daily.

CORRECTION: In a previous version of this post, I regrettably misspelled Dr. Koichi Kawana as Dr. Koichi Kawara. I've corrected it above.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Hyperion Wastewater Treatment Plant
Photo Essay: West Basin Water Recycling Facility
Photo Essay: How the Dry Valley Gets Its Water

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