The Flow Never Stops
"I use the analogy of a rusted eighties pickup truck. You keep putting parts into it, but it keeps breaking down because it's so old-so old that pretty soon they're going to stop making parts for it, and then what are you going to do?"
Next door, in the solid waste removal building, the stench is much stronger. The mammoth plate-and-frame machines here work round the clock, squeezing waste from water. But here, too, are signs of creeping decay: some of the stainless steel holding vats have corroded straight through. Water oozes and drips through the holes, like a slow-running sore.
Most of the equipment here dates to the mid-1970s, when the newer East Plant was built. More than forty years later, these facilities, too, are far from young. And, as Amicangelo points out, since the West Plant closed, the East Plant is all that stands between the city's sewers and the Huron River.
Any failure of the East Plant would be offensive, environmentally irresponsible, and extremely expensive--fines for discharging untreated sewage can hit $25,000 a day. As Amicangelo says, "For reliability--and reliability is crucial--we've got to have a new West Plant."