In 1834, Morris and Alonzo Cutler, John Manderville, and Henry Luther established a settlement that eventually grew to a village, then a town, and finally a city called Waukesha. All along the way, our founding fathers’ commitment to the environment has been reflected in the evolution of our wastewater collection and treatment systems.
As the population grew, the practice of wandering off to a secluded place in the woods to “do one’s duty” gave way to the “privy”, or outhouse. Outhouses were in fairly widespread use well into the 20th century in rural areas, but by 1888, the forward-thinking trustees of the Village of Waukesha were adopting measures to control their use. And around 1890, Waukesha’s first wastewater treatment facility was constructed on the banks of the Fox River, site of the current treatment plant.
The original plant operated much like a large septic tank. Its primary function was to collect wastewater to allow heavier solids to settle out before the water entered the river.
In 1917, the plant was upgraded to increase capacity and improve efficiency. But Waukesha’s population doubled between 1910 and 1930, so in 1928, a new sewage treatment plant was constructed near the existing plant. The modernized facility added biology to the treatment processes through the use of activated sludge – microscopic organisms that remove contaminants. This plant was remarkable for its time, and through several expansions and the addition of a second plant in 1980, the technology behind the 1928 facility remained in place. Then, in the 1990s, driven by more population growth and increased industrial water usage, an additional facility to further treat the effluent clean water was constructed. Waukesha’s Clean Water Plant is now matched by only a handful of other communities in the state.
Today’s Clean Water Plant has the capacity for further expansion, if that becomes necessary. The operational philosophy is to treat the plant as a living, breathing organism that requires constant adaptation and upgrading. Equipment is replaced and processes adjusted as needed to provide the longest useful life of any plant in our history. Waukesha has great expectations for the future. The Clean Water Plant will help make them possible.