Whole New Look

A decorative wall, plantings and artwork create visual appeal and a positive image for the wastewater treatment plant in Dunedin, Fla.
Whole New Look

Before 2009, anyone passing the advanced wastewater treatment plant in Dunedin, Fla., saw a rusting and damaged chain-link fence in front of a facility with its clarifiers and processing equipment in full view. Today, they see a site that is a source of civic pride and an icon of the city's concern for aesthetics.

"For several years the city wanted to improve the facility's appearance," says plant supervisor Brian Antonian. Transformation of the image began with construction of an 8-foot-tall wall that nearly encloses the entire plant (6 mgd design/4.5 mgd average).

Encouraging art

Built in 20-foot sections separated with decorative square columns, the concrete block wall was covered with Sherman-Williams Loxon primer and a coat of French white acrylic latex to give it a finished look. Each column is topped with a precast concrete decorative cap and painted with an accented Sahara rose color to provide the appearance the city was seeking. "The wall has really improved the appearance, and even though it wasn't the goal, it has added to plant security," says Antonian.

In 2011, the city commission allocated funds to encourage public art in Dunedin, says assistant city manager Matthew Campbell. In partnership with the city Arts & Culture Advisory Committee, a call to artists was made for creative artwork to enhance the wall. "The unique part of our requirements was that the artist had to not only be creative, but also had to be a fabricator," says Campbell. "Our budget limit of $10,000 created some challenges."

Celebrating water

The winning design chosen by the committee represents the mission of the treatment plant. Entitled "Blue Gold" and built of welded steel pieces painted with ocean blue acrylic enamel, the scene shows recycling of water and waves surrounding a seagull. Artist Gus Ocamposilva of Clearwater, Fla., says the name reflects how important water is to life. Eight of the identical water-related 3-D sculptures were installed on separate wall sections in high-visibility locations.

"It's a very different visual appeal as you drive through the area now," says Campbell. Twelve Little Gem Magnolia trees, each 9 feet tall, were planted to enhance the artwork. The trees produce a fragrant white flower in spring and will mature to about 25 feet tall. That height will further block a view of the plant from two nearby housing areas. Funds for the trees were provided by a state-sponsored Urban Forestry Grant. The plant maintenance team makes sure the trees are trimmed and the grass is mowed.

It took cooperation between the city Parks and Recreation and Public Works Departments, along with the Arts & Culture Committee to make the project a success, says Campbell. Even Building Engineering got involved to ensure that the artwork was properly secured to the wall. "We're close to the water and experience some pretty strong winds and occasional storms," Campbell says. "It has to stand up to the elements."

Big impact

The wall looked good by itself in meeting the city's goal of camouflaging the plant, says Campbell. But now the focus is on the artwork and the landscaping, as well as the wall. Unassuming motorists would not know there is a wastewater treatment plant behind the wall until they got to the entrance.

Campbell adds, "The combination of the wall and the artwork has had a tremendous impact on the community in a positive way."


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