Libby Reuter and Joshua Rowan
September 2011
Missouri American Water, Oakville, Missouri
N38.46282 W090.36639

The main element in this sculpture is a glass bottle of red paint, found in a basement workshop at a St. Louis city estate sale. The original owner may have been keeping it for just the right job or wondering how to dispose of the paint properly. Thankfully, he did not pour this paint down the sink or outdoor drain. If he had, the local sewer district would have had to remove the chemicals and heavy metals when they treated the wastewater before releasing it into the Mississippi River.

Water treatment plants take water from local rivers, clean the river water to a very high standard and send it to the faucets in our homes. This Missouri American Water plant draws water from the Meramec River, just before the Meramec flows into the Mississippi. During heavy rains, the Mississippi River floods back into the Meramec, and then, this treatment plant uses water from the Mississippi River which, like most rivers, contains both treated wastewater and the untreated water from storm-sewer outflows. If our handyman had dumped his paint sludge down the drain, it could have been in the water that entered this Missouri American Water plant. When deciding how to dispose of anything you would not want to drink, think “rain, drain, water main.”

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