“The Big Hole” Recycles Wastewater

If you’ve been on campus the last couple of weeks, you likely noticed the building-sized hole in the ground between Patterson and Monroe halls. The “big hole” will become an underground wastewater storage vault that will collect runoff to use for campus irrigation. The project will save Eastern Washington University money, and will act as another green initiative that dovetails with the university’s sustainability project.

The basement in Patterson will collect unused groundwater that would ordinarily be pumped into the City of Cheney’s storm sewer and carried offsite at a cost to the university. Rather than waste this resource, the design of Patterson Hall included a buried storage vault to capture this water and use it to irrigate the surrounding grounds.

The vault was originally located in the area between Patterson and Isle Hall. Upon excavation of the site, however, a large rock mass was discovered that made the construction impossible. The alternate location in front of Monroe Hall enabled the vault size to be increased from 42,000 to 100,000 gallons, which will allow the irrigation of even more campus property.

The current plan is to create a network of vaults that link this one. Three other vaults currently exist on campus – one of which is more than 100 years old and has never been used. As part of future projects, the university hopes to construct more vaults in select locations and to collect more wastewater in order to irrigate the majority of campus grounds.

Construction of the vault and covering of the “big hole” will likely be concluded by Friday, Sept. 6.