Landscaping And Sculptures Give Treatment Plant A Resort Vibe

Sculptures, multiple plantings and decorative fencing transform a Washington treatment plant and make it a public attraction.
Landscaping And Sculptures Give Treatment Plant A Resort Vibe
The biofilter at the treatment plant in Wenatchee is adorned with art sculptures of typical treatment microbes

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The 5.5 mgd (design) activated sludge treatment facility in Wenatchee, Washington, has been transformed from an ordinary-looking plant into an eye-catching curiosity that attracts favorable comments from citizens and visitors alike.

“Some people have even asked whether there is some kind of a resort in here,” says Pete Moser, plant superintendent. An attractive fencing system contributes to the illusion, but so do nearly 1,500 strategically placed trees, shrubs and vines, 10 public art sculptures and two elevated platforms with glass walls that serve as viewing stations.

The 10-foot-high ornamental metal fence and posts replaced a chain link fence around the 4-acre site. Built with vertically louvered steel panels joined by self-supporting posts, the fence sections are separated by 12-foot-high masonry block columns. Plant access gates are made of screen-like wire mesh panels of similar dimensions.

The elevated viewing platforms are poured concrete, one nearly 90 feet long. Sections of 1/2-inch-thick laminated safety glass form walls that allow a complete view of the decorative media cover of the biofilter, the sculptures, and some of the facility buildings and components. A cantilevered glass roof forms a canopy over one platform, while the other is uncovered and provides a view of the aeration basins. Each platform has lighted concrete stairs and ramps with handrails and benches. Access is from a roadway in front of the facility.

The sculptures are mounted on the biofilter’s decorative media surface. Each 6-foot-high sculpture represents microbes common to the treatment process. Several of the viewing panels have a water feature etched into the glass, representing different images of water.         

Transformation of the plant (2.6 mgd average flow) started in 2012 as part of an odor and visual mitigation project in which a BOHN BIOFILTER was installed. Red and brown lava rock and crushed stone of a contrasting color form the top layer of the media portion of the biofilter. The rocks and stone are arranged in grids of 8-foot squares and 4- by 8-foot rectangles, each cordoned off with 3/8-inch black steel plates embedded in the surface.

Landscaping in and around the plant completes the picture. Nearly 250 red maple, cypress, ash, pine and pear trees were planted, along with more than 1,200 shrubs and ground cover such as burning bush, dwarf daylily, juniper, lavender and Adam’s needle. Forty trumpet vine and winter creeper vines were planted before re-sodding.

“The original bones of the plant are still here, but the overall look is completely different,” Moser says. “To someone not knowing what we were before, they honestly would wonder whether this is something other than a treatment plant.”

Funding for the visual portion of the project was through the state’s mandate that 1 percent of public project costs be set aside for public art. The treatment plant is in an industrial area that is fast becoming a commercial and residential hotspot. Hotels, shops and restaurants are opening nearby to take advantage of county-owned Riverfront Park, bordered by the plant on one side and the Columbia River on the other.

The park has picnic areas, ball fields and boat launches, as well as a popular hiking and biking trail loop that follows the river and joins other parks in the county’s system.

Says Moser, “It was our responsibility to upgrade the plant, and we did it to be a good neighbor to the surrounding developments.”


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