Final Take

Sewer history display 15 years in the making
Jon Schladweiler’s fascination with the U.S. wastewater system began almost 30 years ago, but it wasn’t until a family vacation in Telluride, Colorado, in the mid-1990s that he truly began to envision his dream: a mobile sewer history exhibit composed of photos, literature and many physical examples of older sewer pipe and maintenance tools.

Schladweiler, historian for the Arizona Water and Pollution Control Association, says his family wasn’t exactly thrilled about bringing that first piece of old pipe back with them in the car from Colorado, so he shipped it home to Arizona. The idea for the display began in 1992, when he began collecting historical photos for a photo array that would be displayed at the AWPCA/Water Environment Federation’s National Specialty Conference on “Collection Systems – Operation and Maintenance” in June 1993 in Tucson, Arizona.

From there, Schladweiler says the sewer history exhibit continued to grow. People began calling and sending him a variety of sewer artifacts, and to this day, he gets offers for about two to three new pieces of pipe or tools for the display every year.

Currently, the exhibit consists of a historical photo array, more than 40 handouts concerning sewer history and several pieces of pipe and tools dating from the early 1800s through the 1960s. The display itself weighs approximately 1 ton and can be packed away in two special shipping crates for truck transport to shows across the country.

The AWPCA’s Sewer History Exhibit has also been featured on a Modern Marvels History Channel segment on sewers, which is re-aired about every three months, along with specials on the history of plumbing and of toilets.

The display will be at the Water Environment Federation’s National Specialty Conference 2007 in San Diego on October 15-18.

For further information or to donate historical photos and/or artifacts for this exhibit, visit this site.
– Barbara Ibrahim

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