The Flow Never Stops
Amicangelo is senior utility engineer at Ann Arbor's sewage treatment plant, and he's been nervous for the last year. To understand why, hold your nose and follow him into the venerable West Plant.
Built by Roosevelt's WPA back in 1936 on a bend in the Huron River east of Dixboro Road, the plant processed three generations of Ann Arborites' wastewater--all the unmentionable stuff that's gone down our sinks, drains, showers, toilets, sewers, and in some cases manholes. But the city shut it down last January.
Outside, the huge primary settling basins have ragged cracks, and their massive concrete foundations are crumbling. Inside, the pumps that moved the sewage are silent, and there are dried sludge and pigeon droppings on the floors. It's dingy, dusty, dirty and above all smelly--because even with the temperature below freezing on this frosty winter morning, the stale but stinging stench of decades of filth and excrement hangs in the air.
"The West Plant's offline not because we want it to be, but because it's got to be," says Amicangelo. "Because even if we did repair it and put it back online, it wouldn't meet current standards and it would be continually breaking down.