The Art of Clean Water

If you were standing at the Eaton Centre in downtown Toronto and headed east on the Queen St. Streetcar, at the end of the line, about 8 or 9 km later, you would reach the RC Harris Water Treatment Plant.

Harris Water Plant 5

You probably wouldn’t really notice it at first because it is hidden behind a large green fence, but behind that fence is a massive Art Deco complex built in the late 1930s and later designated as a heritage site.

Harris Water Plant 9
Front of the main building as seen from the roadway between the main and lower building

While most buildings have their frontage facing the road, the RC Harris Water Treatment Plant changed the rules.  It faces Lake Ontario – and that face is pretty spectacular.

Harris Water Plant 3
Main building containing the filter pools

This past weekend was the 19th Annual Open Doors Toronto featuring over 100 of the “most architecturally, historically, culturally and socially significant buildings across the city”.*

This building has been on my radar for years.  I’ve done more than my fair share of travelling around the world and I no longer take it for granted how lucky we are to turn on a tap and have abundant, clean, drinkable water.

I finally got a chance to see the water treatment plant up close.

Harris Water Plant 6
Little brass doors like the ones on the bottom of this large clock / control console, could be found on all the control consoles at each filtering pond

For a building with a utilitarian purpose, this one is an unusual work of art composed in marble and polished brass.

I wish I could say the same thing about its doors.  Sadly …. utilitarian.

Harris water plant - door

Just lots of plain green doors, although with a few interesting signs.

Harris Water Plant 11
Sign on the door leading into the pump room.  Yes, it was very loud.

This is the largest of 4 water treatment plants servicing the city and RC Harris has a capacity of 950 million litres of clean water EVERY DAY.

Harris Water Plant 8
Behind each panel of windows is a water filtering pool – some full, some empty.  This is about half of one corridor.  Two corridors in total.

A separate building containing the pumps that drive the whole system is located below the main building.

Harris Water Plant 4
Lower building containing the pump room

I almost didn’t bother to visit this building.  I mean, after all, it’s basically an engine room.  How interesting could it be?

Well, what can I say … I was even more impressed.  I’ve never seen an engine room that was so spotlessly immaculate.  At first I thought the floors were wet, until I realized they weren’t.  They just gleamed.

Harris Water Plant 13
The lower level of the pump room
Harris Water Plant 10
The upper level of the pump room

I questioned one of the workers if it was always this pristine and he said pretty well yes.

Harris Water Plant 12
Even the brass railings were spotless and polished to a shine.

I guess when your business is purifying water, the facilities better reflect that philosophy of clean.


Thursday Doors is a weekly photo feature hosted by Norm Frampton at Norm 2.0.

* Quote from BlogTO


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