Do you smell something?
On the hillside across from the Festival of Arts in Laguna Beach is a lighthouse. Looks like this:
Ordinarily, finding a lighthouse in a city with Beach in its name would not be unusual. In this case, though, that’s not really a lighthouse. It’s an old sewage treatment plant vent stack. I didn’t have a clue what that meant until after I finished my research but it sounded like it released sewage gases into the air, pretty high above people who might be on the ground nearby. However, I wonder about the people who lived above:
Maybe in 1935 there were no homes at the top of the hillside….
The sewage plant was built in 1935 with $165,838 from the Public Works Administration, a Depression-era program meant to put people to work doing constructive things for the nation. Ack! A government program meant to help the nation and its citizens! What dastardly people created such a government program? Ack!—[Editorial comment]
The plant was built to look like a little Normandy castle with a Mediterranean influence. According to Internet sources, “There was a lot of revivalism going on at that time.”
Did you see the vent stack in the above picture? Upper right.
The site was chosen in the 1930s because it was zoned non-residential. However, it was just a block away from the Woman’s Club and two blocks from City Hall and the fire station, leading the city council to require the use of every known method of odor control and state-of-the-art sewage treatment. Surprisingly, much of the technology used in the plant is still in use in modern facilities today.
Sewage was treated multiple times with effluent discharged through a cast iron pipe about 300 feet offshore. According to those same Internet sources, “Sludge was dumped into the ocean every six months via that same pipe but out of bathing season and while the tide was going out.”
Odor control is where this vent stack comes into the picture. Sewage was prechlorinated at a manhole about 50 feet from the plant. A ventilation system changed the air in the plant every ten minutes, and exhaust air passed into a flue which extended up the hill into a lighthouse-shaped chimney 200 feet above the plant.
Shortly before its decommissioning in 1983, it was listed on the city’s historic register, believed at that time (and probably still) to be the only sewage treatment facility anywhere to be on a historic register. Apparently the cylinder and office were to be preserved, but I didn’t see them while I was at the Festival of Arts. Then again, I wasn’t looking for them.
The sewage plant’s treatment ponds were removed in 1989 to build—what else?—a parking lot.
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Posted on October 16, 2013, in Architecture, Halls of History, History, Out & About, Photos and tagged hillside lighthouse in laguna beach, laguna beach, sewage treatment plant laguna beach. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.