Operator/Artist Completes Digester Tank Mural

Maintenance technician Rod Ewing put his artistic talent to work to beautify a digester at a clean-water plant in Port Orchard, Washington
Operator/Artist Completes Digester Tank Mural
The team at the South Kitsap Water Reclamation Facility includes, from left, Randy Screws, plant manager; Jessy Mottinger, maintenance technician; Wesley Morrell, instrumentation technician; Kevahn Steinke, maintenance supervisor; Brian McCown, operator; Rod Ewing, maintenance technician; Bryan Gallagher and Lance Hunt, operators; and Lorisa Watkins, laboratory analyst.

When South Kitsap Fire and Rescue asked the South Kitsap Water Reclamation Facility to enlarge the street address numbers displayed on a small sign at the plant entrance, facility maintenance technician Rod Ewing had a creative idea.

Ewing, who is a 29-year veteran of the plant in Port Orchard, Washington, as well as an accomplished artist, volunteered to paint a mural on the digester tank that would comply with the request while enhancing the plant’s overall appearance.

On public view

The 1.87 mgd (average) activated sludge facility nestles in a cove surrounded on three sides by homes and businesses. Only a well-traveled two-lane road separates it from Sinclair Inlet, a popular recreational and commercial waterway and a major tributary to Puget Sound.

Street numbers were painted on the concrete digester when it was built in 1987, but they were small and had weathered over the years. It was Ewing’s idea to improve and enhance them, says Randy Screws, plant manager. The new enlarged numbers and street name letters appear on an effluent discharge pipe shown on the mural. Water from the pipe is shown flowing into a stream with fish in the water and wildlife nearby.

“Rod wanted to present an image and theme that demonstrates our work of protecting our receiving waters and the environment,” says Screws. The mural measures about 10 feet square and took less than a week to complete. Preparation of the brick surface involved grinding and cleaning. Ewing used polyurethane paint for the mural atop a white undercoat primer. The entire surface was sealed with a clear coat.

Many projects

Ewing discovered his artistic talent when he was about 7 years old and taught himself to paint. “My childhood ambition was to become a school teacher, but then I realized I had this gift as an artist,” he says.

Since then, he has displayed his talent in varied projects. He has painted portraits of famous people, such as TV’s Ellen DeGeneres and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. Recently he painted a portrait of Michael Jackson and will send it to Donald Trump, who is a huge Jackson fan. A portrait of former Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander eluding a Green Bay Packer tackler is one of his favorites.

Public art restoration has also exhibited Ewing’s talent. The Port Orchard library features a centennial mural of a seaside scene by now-famous muralist Eric Grohe. Dimmed, weathered and ravaged by moisture and sunlight, the mural was fast deteriorating. In 2009, the city commissioned Ewing to restore it. Using lighter colors dabbed on to create a faded appearance, he preserved the original image as shown in photographs of the original.

“I didn’t want to take away from the rest of it,” Ewing said in an interview at the time with the local newspaper. “I’m just purely honored to do this.”

Fitting right in

While Ewing’s digester mural receives many compliments from the public, Screws says the staff as a general practice tries to make the facility fit in and look as good as possible: “We maintain the property to make sure we are not an eyesore and that we blend in, and the mural has really helped.”

Plant tours are a popular form of outreach at the South Kitsap facility. “People will call to get our address to set up a tour and say, ‘I just drove by your place and didn’t even notice it,’” says Screws. “When they’re not noticing it, I guess that’s a good thing.”   


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