So what’s the big deal about a water treatment plant? Well, it is the biggest of its kind in the world, processing over 300 million gallons of water a day that flow into the facility courtesy of some 1,800 miles worth of pipes, 24,000 catch basins, 22 flow metering stations and 18 pumping stations. Everything from your household flushes to stormwater runoff flows into the 153-acre facility, where it is processed to avoid being dumped into the Potomac and Anacostia rivers as raw sewage. And it’s not just D.C. residents that are served by the plant — it processes wastewater from Virginia and Maryland, too.

Before the plant opened for limited operations in 1937 and full operations a year later, the city’s early sewage system, built in the 1880s, ran straight into the city’s two rivers, making them, well, really gross and polluted. And even after it started operating, Blue Plains only served as a primary treatment center—which meant that it mostly only filtered out physical objects in the water—and failed to keep pace with the region’s growing population.

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Martin Austermuhle blogs at DCist . The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.