Amidst the echoes of World Toilet Day, an official UN International Day marked on November 19th, one prominent figure drew attention to the vital role of sanitation.
Microsoft co-founder, Bill Gates, visited the Brussels Sewer Museum, not just as a quirky excursion, but to underscore the global importance of proper sanitation. In a video shared on Instagram, Gates explored the concealed history of Brussels’ sewage system, shedding light on the critical role wastewater plays in global health.
In the latter half of the 20th century, the Sewer Department of the City of Brussels responded to a growing interest for visits through its underground network. It was during this time that the concept of a museum dedicated to sewers took shape, fueled by the need to educate the public on the intricacies of wastewater management.
Scientists test wastewater for Covid, polio, and other diseases. This work helps prevent future pandemics.Bill Gates on instagram
The ideal location for this unique museum emerged at the granting pavilions of the Anderlecht gate. Encompassing the Senne sluice, a collector and secondary tributaries, this site became the canvas for the Sewer Museum’s creation, officially established on May 30th, 1988. The institution is a result of cooperative efforts among engineers, scientists, historians and the unsung heroes of the underground – sewage workers. Together, they’ve crafted a perspective of the city’s subterranean landscape.
Beyond Gates’ visit, the Brussels Sewer Museum stands as a testament to the hidden infrastructure beneath the city’s surface. Nestled beneath the charming cobblestone streets, this offbeat attraction provides a fascinating glimpse into the city’s hidden sewer system. Spanning nearly 1,900 kilometers, the system channels thousands of cubic meters of wastewater daily through a complex system of underground drains and tunnels.
Visitors of the museum are offered an insight into the historical and modern aspects of the sewer network, highlighting the engineering marvels that have kept the city’s streets clean and dry, telling a story of urban development, technological progress and the constant battle against waterborne diseases. Unraveling the mysteries of how water travels from homes to wastewater treatment plants and how sewers and underground transport coexist, through photos, models and relevant items, the museum illuminates the intricate processes happening daily beneath our feet.
The museum also serves as a tribute to the overlooked profession of sewage workers, showcasing flood control methods, as well as the construction and repair techniques they employ.
Housed in two former neoclassical-style granting pavilions, the recommended visit route starts at the first pavilion, where mysteries of daily water management in Brussels are unraveled, showcasing the construction and reconstruction of sewers, providing insight into the profession of a sewage worker and exploring the urban legends that have woven themselves into the city’s subterranean narrative.
After the first pavilion, for a truly immersive experience, the museum invites visitors to descend around ten meters underground and enter an actual sewer, the collector sewer of the Chaussée de Mons. The underground exploration allows guests to comprehend the intricacies of wastewater management and gain a firsthand understanding of the challenging work undertaken by sewage workers.
The journey through the collector sewer provides a tangible connection to the city’s subterranean veins. Visitors can walk along the banks of the collector sewer for approximately 50 meters. However, in the event of flooding, safety measures necessitate the closure of the sewer, rendering it temporarily inaccessible.
Back up, in the second pavilion, visitors can delve into the historical evolution of sewer equipment and the global management of “blue gold”. Here, the museum offers a comprehensive look at the tools and technologies that have shaped sewer systems throughout history.
Beyond its historical narrative, the museum extends an invitation to reflect on a broader perspective — the city’s water cycle. Through the journey, visitors can gain insights into their water consumption, water management and the preservation of the environment. The Sewer Museum encourages guests to contemplate not only the history beneath their feet but also their role in sustaining the delicate balance of the planet’s natural resources.