art / Curiosities / Economics

Art Underfoot, The Wonders of Indian Sewer Covers…Yes, I’ve Noted But Someone Actually Wrote the Definitive Book!–Thanks Google.

Indian Sewer Cover Factory

photo credit:

I’ve always been intrigued by the fact that the most artistic sewer covers are invariably “Made in India.”  I do tend to look out for these art forms in unlikely places.  Why, I wondered,  would we import these 500-pound cast-iron covers all the way from India?  Well, I suppose this is another manifestation

Indian Sewer2

photo credit: Curated Eclectica in Staunton, Virginia

of the decline of the American steel industry, with home-made products instead being replaced by imports shipped in on massive tankers from China and India.  Anyway, who would have thought—there are other people as curious about “eclectica” as I am.  Someone has even written a book about sewer covers  which features examples more gorgeous than what I’ve seen.  Haven’t taken the sewer cover tour of The Big Apple but intend to sometime, book in hand.

For any of you who’ve ever wondered about this topic of seminal interest, enjoy this article which offers a marvelous background on the subject  Inevitably, with the decline of American foundries and rising labor costs, municipalities sought imports of these covers which sounds impossibly ironic given the distance to Asia.  With reduced manufacturing cost in sweat-factory foundries in India, the huge carbon footprint of their shipped arrival is still a bargain.  Others are imported from China and Korea.

By contrast, American sewer covers, which one can still find as I’ve seen recently in Fairfax County, are sometimes interesting but typical linear and less nuanced:

American sewer 1

Now, while we’re on the delicate subject of water treatment–not just rainwater–there’s an incredibly impressive example of intentional public art integrated into sewage treatment plants.  One of America’s largest, most successful examples of public art paired with infrastructure is found in the Brightwater Treatment Plant in Washington State.  In this case, because the state legislature mandates that a hefty percentage of any construction project must be allocated to public art, voila–even a sewage plant receives millions of dollars for art. Make sure to scroll through the photos.  I’ve heard full panel discussions about the Brightwater art planning process.  This is a nationally famous example of implementing public art in infrastructure.  Enjoy the whimsy!


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