On tour! Safety rules for visiting the water treatment plant

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Whether you’re looking for an educational fieldtrip activity with kids or an interesting date idea, a wastewater treatment plant tour is a unique (and fun!) thing to do in Madison, Wisconsin.

A tour group gathers outside at the plant to learn about operations, safety and maintenance required for wastewater treatment.

As the weather gets warmer, more groups of people arrive at the District, trailing tour guides around the plant – some of them holding their noses. In a typical year, 1,000 to 2,000 visitors come through the plant! Groups include K-12 students, college students, professional associations, business groups, summer camps, elected officials, wastewater engineers and even families, to name a few.

During 2020 and 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic put a hold on our in-person tours. But now, we’ve opened back up for small group tours and First Friday tours. The virtual tours page of our site also remains highly popular – take a look around!

First Friday tours are about one hour long and are held the first Friday of every month at noon (excluding holidays.) Small group tours at the District last about an hour and a half and are generally held Monday through Friday during the day. The best part? Our tours are free to any member of the community! As long as each visitor follows the rules…

A tour group in safety helmets stand in front of wastewater tanks to learn about processes and operations of sewage treatment.

Do’s and do not’s for visitors

The treatment plant is a working facility. The tour route includes stairs and uneven surfaces and passes by operating machinery. Safe behavior and PPE help prevent the chance of injury and illness – we take everyone’s safety very seriously.

So, let’s start with the DO’s:

  • DO wear closed-toe, flat-soled shoes.
  • DO dress for the weather, since much of the tour is outside and will be held rain or shine.
  • DO have a responsible adult as a chaperone for minors to ensure safe and respectful behavior.
  • DO appoint a primary chaperone to wear a reflective vest and act as the caboose of the group.
  • DO walk safely and stay together with the tour guide at all times.
  • DO listen while the tour guide is talking and follow all instructions from the guide.
  • DO pay attention to your surroundings and stand back from fences and barriers. Be aware of vehicles, forklifts and moving machinery.
  • DO wash your hands after visiting the plant, especially before eating.

And here are a few DO NOT’s:

  • DO NOT wear sandals, flip-flops or open-toe footwear.
  • DO NOT run or engage in horseplay at the plant.
  • DO NOT touch items, machinery or equipment on the tour. Don’t sit, lean or climb on fences or machines.
  • DO NOT worry about personal protective equipment (PPE) – like safety vests or hard hats. The District provides the necessary gear for primary chaperones or for the entire group if your group is visiting specialized areas of the plant that are not part of the standard tour route.

If anyone in the group decides to be unsafe or disrespectful, our tour guides will stop the tour. Don’t be the one that ruins it for everyone else!

To schedule a tour or to learn more about seeing wastewater treatment in action, visit our Tours page.