Hidden away in a lonely, industrial corner of Fridley lies the Minneapolis Water Treatment Plant.
Progressively expanded since the early 1900's, many of its cavernous buildings possess a grace and beauty often lacking in contemporary industrial facilities. Huge expanses of arched windows surround impossibly huge halls, creating a throbbing, humming cathedral of water—bright orange, yellow, and blue pumps and yawning turquoise pools substituting their colors for the stained glass of of old Europe.
For all its turn-of-the-century beauty, the Fridley plant doesn't quite clean everything out of the water. Inside a squat, inoffensive, red-and-tan building just up the road in Columbia Heights, the water goes through a final, space-age procedure. To remove the smallest protozoa, water is fed through long bundles of tubes perforated with tiny, tiny holes too small for even a single-celled organism to squeeze through. Blue-green fluorescent light shining off the PVC and stainless steel, racks upon racks of these tubes stand in an eerily quiet chamber, a quiet hum the only sign that anything is happening inside their interstices.