PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. — Sometimes, there’s more than meets the eye.
Two residences in Johnson County are not the homes they appear to be. Instead, they’re centers for public utilities, hidden among existing houses.
A house at the corner of 75th and Nall has been there since the early 1960’s, and yet, it’s never had a true resident. It’s always been property of Johnson County Wastewater, built this way to blend in with the surrounding community.
From the outside of this house, it’s a slice of suburban tranquility, until you notice the fake front door, and no signs of life behind the windows.
It’s a different scene inside the wastewater pump holding station, where as much as 20 million gallons of water are pumped each day.
Johnson County Wastewater Managers Darrell Thornbrugh and Kurt Winters have worked most of their lives in sewer stations like the homes, which are designed to blend into the community.
“It was built this way, with this design, to fit into the neighborhood and community,” Thornbrugh said. “We do that with all the stations.”
“We want to fit into the residential areas and with our neighbors,” Winters said. “It’s an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ principal and they know we’re treating the waste.”
The pump station has been at the corner of 75th and Nall since late 1963. Johnson County Wastewater records show that’s when nearby property owners gave $300,000 in capital improvements to build it.
But not every neighbor knows about it, including Eva Hedtke, who works at Asbury United Methodist Church across the street. She says she can’t smell the sewer at all.
“I think they’re doing a really good job, especially given the neighborhood setting that they’re in,” Hedtke said.
And while employees like Winters don’t reside in the station, they say they respect these neighbors, even the ones who don’t know what’s inside the house on the corner.
“It’s not the cleanest job, but it’s a necessary job,” Winters said. “We’re here to protect human health and the environment. So we need to clean up the waste before it gets out into the environment.”