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The Fremont community celebrates a solution to an old problem

By June 29, 2017September 21st, 2020No Comments


Everyone looks forward to ribbon-cutting events, both project teams and communities. That public dedication marks the end of a successful project and signals that construction is over.

King County hosted two recent events to dedicate new clean water facilities. With our communities, we celebrated two projects delivered on time and under budget: the Murray Wet Weather Facility and the Fremont Siphon and Odor Control Facility.


WTD Director Mark Isaacson shows Project Manager Will Sroufe’s kids how to cut a ribbon at the Father’s Day dedication of the Fremont Siphon facility

Fremont Siphon service area map

Fremont Siphon service area

In Fremont, the County’s project team updated old infrastructure and a solved an old problem: odor.

The Fremont Siphon consists of two large wastewater pipelines. These pipelines use gravity to move wastewater from Fremont to Queen Anne under the Lake Washington Ship Canal. From there, the wastewater travels to West Point Treatment Plant in Magnolia. The pipelines serve an area that spans 100 square miles during the summer.

After a century, King County’s project team needed to design and build new pipelines to carry wastewater. They also addressed community complaints and studies that called for odor control.

Times have changed and so have our sensibilities. Legacy systems like Fremont may have limited odor control or none at all. Wastewater agencies increased odor control beginning in the mid-1900s. Today, King County is committed to odor control throughout our system. When we upgrade aging infrastructure, we evaluate the need to add or upgrade odor control.

Back when the Fremont Siphon was first constructed, engineers focused on getting waste out of homes and off the streets. Odor wasn’t a priority when horse manure on the roadways was still a problem.


Photo courtesy of Seattle Municipal Archives


Active odor control for a large system calls for a building to house the equipment. And a building means a collaborative effort to make new facilities blend into the neighborhood.

King County’s project team began the design process by asking people to identify their values and vision of their community. At workshops, neighbors and community members described what is special about Fremont: its history, artistic character, and the adjacent park.

Designers used that input to develop architecture and landscape concepts. Given two options, the community chose an architectural concept that evokes local industrial history. The landscaping is a Pacific Northwest coastal plant palette.

Project designers incorporated other community input on the facility site. The layout preserves views of the Ship Canal. A rain garden captures stormwater and extends the feel of the Ship Canal Park.


Left to right: 4Culture Director Cath Brunner, Artist Perri Howard, and WTD Director Mark Isaacson


The Fremont Siphon project included public art under the 1% for Art program administered by 4Culture . The community participated in the public art process, from artist selection to inspiration. Early in design, people asked for a viewing window into the system. Artist Perri Howard found a way to make that happen figuratively.

The project team built a central window the size of the pipe beneath the street and several false windows. Howard filled those windows with art that reveals how the seasons affect wastewater flows through the Fremont Siphon. She coordinated with engineers to understand how the system operated .  Her watercolor renditions of hydrographs are displayed in panels reminiscent of stained glass, conveying a critical part of our region’s water cycle.

©2017 Perri Howard, Streamline; during the day (left) and illuminated at dark (right)

When King County cut the ribbon on the new Fremont Odor Control Facility, over 100 people applauded the completion of a successful project. They visited with the project team, and learned how they helped to update a century-old facility. They could smell the difference odor control makes. And they saw their community’s vision reflected in the building, the landscape, and the art.