Today we visited the construction site of a future water treatment and pumping plant that is part of a multi billion dollar project to renaturalize the Emscher River. As part of this project, underground sewage pipes will transform the river from an open sewage river to a “natural” river with ecological services.
Before we suited up in construction hats, boots, and orange jackets, we heard from one of the project coordinators for the Emschergenossenschaft, Reinhard Ketteler. He spoke to us about the history of the river being used as a sewage river, and told us the history of coal mining in the area. When coal is mined from the ground, it causes land subsidence which leads to sinking land, and oftentimes whatever is on the land sinks as well. This leads to sewage lakes forming and houses sinking into the ground. In recent times, coal mining is no longer done in the areas near the Emscher river, so it is much more feasible to have underground sewage pipes.
After Mr. Ketteler’s presentation, we got to tour the construction site of a future water treatment and pumping plant for the underground sewage wastewater. There were massive amounts of concrete and rebar strewn about on the construction site and shipping containers on the construction site to limit sound pollution in urban areas.
The actual pump itself was a gigantic concrete cylinder in the ground, and we climbed down into the belly of this beast to learn about the different parts that would be used to clean the water.
The whole project changing the Emscher river requires a team of architects, landscape architects, urban planners, government officials, and for this aspect of the design, engineers. Seeing a project from the perspective of an engineer made me realize how important it is to work within multidisciplinary teams.
This project is a fascinating example of using different techniques to redesign a post industrial landscape. Tomorrow we will conduct a site visit at our project site for our studio portion of the study abroad.