Clean-Water Plant Goes Sci-Fi

A government plot, a mysterious creature and a group of operators trapped at a treatment plant create the setting for a new horror novel.

Author Dodge Winston has written what is probably the only science fiction novel set in a clean-water facility. A self-published book, The Wastewater Plant, combines Winston’s passion for the industry with his experiences at multiple advanced activated sludge plants. “I meshed that all together to come up with the characters,” Winston says.

In the field for 10 years, Winston is plant operator at a facility in San Francisco Bay Area. “I’ve let a couple operators where I work read the book, and it’s been pretty positive,” he says. “One person wasn’t happy about it, but it’s a fiction horror novel.”

The plot follows operator-in-training Scott as he starts a job at a treatment plant on an island. The first twist comes as a 100-year flood begins and the day and night crews are stuck together at the plant, surrounded by marshland and swamps. Scott realizes that the operators’ relationships and work politics add an entire facet to the job. “He sees that maybe the plant is a little more intense than he ever expected,” Winston says. The second plot twist is a creature stirred up from the marsh by the action of water from the rainstorm.

An undercover Black Ops mission operated by the government also throws the operators for a loop. “A government agency knows about the creature through old Indian folklore,” Winston explains. “Their idea is to control the weather to create the perfect storm where this creature wakes up, and that’s exactly what happens. Since the only thing on the island is the treatment plant, the creature sets its sights on the island and the plant.”

Operators are forced to deal with the creature but have no idea the government is behind it all. “While they’re defending themselves and trying to protect themselves and just make it until daylight, the government is watching this all happen, and they have other things in mind,” Winston says. “One thing leads to another, and it’s not pretty.”

Winston says joking around with operators about reality shows like “Deadliest Catch” and “Yukon Men” prompted him to write the book: “When you work the graveyard shift, a wastewater plant can be eerie and creepy. I thought it was the perfect venue for a horror/sci-fi novel.”

While Winston wrote the book for the general public, plant operators are sure to enjoy the lighthearted side, too: “I want operators to get a fun ride out of the book. It’s something they can really identify with. The book portrays wastewater not just in a technical way, but in a fun way. Wastewater can be something more than just wastewater. You can write horrific, action-packed books about it using snippets of the plant staff’s character traits.

“It should be recognized as one of the great industries that serves the environment and humanity. I want readers to get that it’s an important industry and that it’s worth talking about.” The book is available through and as an eBook or paperback. For more information or to contact Winston, visit


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