ACT 1:  The first site visit of our Summer site visit series Field Trips: Backstage LA.

Processing effluence is a quintessential task of infrastructure, but Hyperion recasts the role of a waste treatment plant with its recent additions of architecture and engineering, including a new Environmental Learning Center.

Hyperion Treatment Plant
12000 Vista del Mar, Playa del Rey
TOUR LED BY: Michael Mullen and Nancy Carr.


Today, 15 brave field trippers in addition to Rick and myself braved the “Disneyland of Poop” as our hosts affectionately call the Hyperion Treatment Plant. Named “one of the American Public Works Association’s Top Ten Public Works Projects of the Twentieth Century” alongside epic sites like the Panama Canal, Interstate Highway System and the Hoover Dam, Hyperion performed as a functional spectacle near the beautiful Pacific Ocean. It can blow one’s mind to think about how up until the ’50s, our predecessors dumped sewage directly into the ocean without treatment. The full story about the “full secondary treatment” phenomenon here:

We had an educational and interesting tour led by Nancy Carr, Plant Tour Guide, and Michael Mullin, Senior Policy Analyst for Energy and Environment Team of the City of LA’s Mayor’s Office. Riding a clean white tram, we experienced the sublime infrastructural landscape of effluence including very special smells that we were told were tame compared to what they could be; remarkable tales of large objects that made it through the sewer system such as a motorcycle and telephone pole; and diplomatic names for our sludge such as “biosolids.” I have to give this California landmark significant credit for the work it is doing to recycle and reuse water and solids. I will flush the toilet or take a shower with a new consciousness from this point forward.

I thought Michael Mullin said it well in stating that a major motivator for building the Environmental Learning Center at the plant was to highlight the inextricable relationship between sustainability and economic concerns. I’m curious how as an American and global culture financial pressure is leading us to addressing consumption, energy and land-use.

Thanks for listening to this field report.

Yours in revealing the true “nature” of the city,
Sara Daleiden

MORE FIELD NOTES: from Stephanie Campbell at LASHP

photos by Rick Miller