Idea of the Month

The Springfield Metro Sanitary District took residents on a driving tour of its newly expanded plant with the same trolleys on which tourists view historic sites.
Idea of the Month
Plant visitors rode on a trolley of the kind used for touring historic sites in Springfield.

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One way to attract people to a clean-water plant tour is to do something a little different. So, here’s a hat tip to the folks at the Springfield (Ill.) Metro Sanitary District. On April 27, they gave tours of the newly upgraded Spring Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant that included a 15-minute ride around the grounds in a trolley usually used to take tourists around to places such as the home of Abraham Lincoln.

“There’s a company in town that runs trolley routes around the historic sites in Springfield,” says Gregg Humphrey, executive director of the district. “The trolleys have windows on the side. They’re open-air trolleys, but if the weather is bad you can roll down the plastic windows.

“The trolleys run during the summer, and we made an inquiry as to whether a unit would be available to us. People came to our administration building, and in there they watched a video of the plant and how it operates. After that they got into the trolley for a 15-minute driving tour around the plant.

“We had our people narrating as they went, explaining the components and processes people saw on the video — the primary clarifiers, the activated sludge tanks, the secondary clarifiers, and things like that. For safety and security reasons we didn’t want people wandering around the plant on their own.”

The upgrade replaces a previous plant that had operated since the 1920s. It encompasses the first three phases of a four-phase project costing $120 million. The new facility has been operating since last July.

How do you conduct plant tours? Is there anything you can do to make the experience more interesting and more pleasant for your visitors?

Showing your plant to residents — and doing it in a unique and classy manner — helps further the two aims of The Fire Chief Project:

  • Raise clean-water operators to the stature of the fire chief
  • Make young people grow up wanting to be clean-water operators

Visit The Fire Chief Project blog at


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