What Lies Beneath

December 20, 2008 Published in the September 2008 issue of Seattle Met

MAYOR GREG NICKELS WENT SPELUNKING this summer. With city staffers and media in tow, the mayor descended into an enormous cavern under Beacon Hill that human eyes may never see again. Amid 624 concrete stalactites holding up a 30-foot-high ceiling the size of six football fields, hizzoner did what he seems apt to do until his term in office dries up: He held another press conference on water. The Beacon Hill Reservoir is the first in a series of underground basins Seattle decided to dig in response to 9/11 to keep its water safe from pond scum, bird droppings, and terrorist tampering.

Terrorists don’t seem all that interested in water sources as targets, after all, but the covered reservoirs pay off in other ways. They stop algae from growing and reduce the need for chlorination, which means fewer nasty smells and unwholesome contaminants. And they provide new land for parks. It cost $39.6 million to take the rez underground, but we gained 26 acres of grassy knolls on Beacon Hill.
Given the mayor’s love of city water, we’re sorry he missed the filling of the subterranean vat. We’re sorry we missed it. A few weeks after the mayor climbed out, the Beacon Hill hollow swallowed 50 million gallons of municipal H~2~0.

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