Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

In Pictures: A look inside RC Harris Plant

R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant in Toronto is one of those rare examples in which industrial architecture is approached with an aesthetic intention. It sits as an imposing fortress by the lake, with an air of mystery surrounding it. It is named after Roland Caldwell Harris, Toronto’s commissioner of public works from 1912 until 1945. The water plant, and other Toronto landmarks such as the Bloor Street viaduct, were built during his tenure.

1 of 14

R.C. Harris Water treatment plant, Toronto's main treatment plant, produces around 35% of the city's water. Architect Thomas Canfield Pomphrey designed the plant, that was built in phases throughout the 1930s in art deco style.

Gloria Nieto/The Globe and Mail

2 of 14

The south building of the R.C. Harris water treatment plant which is home to the pump house. Water is pumped all the way up to Markham and Maple from here.

Gloria Nieto/The Globe and Mail

3 of 14

A clock in the rotunda of the Filter Building at R.C. Harris water treatment plant, shows not only the time but the filter backwash conditions and the reservoir tank levels.

Gloria Nieto/The Globe and Mail

4 of 14

A bottle containing liquid alum or aluminum sulphate solution stands in the window of the service building at R.C. Harris Water treatment plant in Toronto. Alum is a chemical used to coagulate small sandy particles or minor debris so they can be easily filtered afterwards.

Gloria Nieto/The Globe and Mail

Story continues below advertisement

5 of 14

Suction and discharge piping located at the basement of the high lift pumping area in R.C. Harris water treatment plant. Each pump has a suction pipe where the water goes in, and a discharge pipe where the waters comes out under higher pressure.

Gloria Nieto/The Globe and Mail

6 of 14

R.C. Harris Water treatment plant, Toronto's main treatment plant, produces around 35% of the city's water. Dave Scott, one of the engineering technicians working at Toronto Water Pilot Plant, watches as different configurations of filters are tested out. This facility is located under the old water plant, and was built in 2008 as part of an underground Residue Management Facility.

Gloria Nieto/The Globe and Mail

7 of 14

Old marble control panels in the filtration building at the R.C. Harris water treatment plant.

Gloria Nieto/The Globe and Mail

8 of 14

R.C. Harris Water treatment plant, Toronto's main treatment plant, produces around 35% of the city's water. Service water lines and chlorine lines run along an underground utility corridor that connects the south and north buildings.

Gloria Nieto/The Globe and Mail

9 of 14

R.C. Harris Water treatment plant, Toronto's main treatment plant, produces around 35% of the city's water.

Gloria Nieto/The Globe and Mail

10 of 14

R.C. Harris Water treatment plant, Toronto's main treatment plant, produces around 35% of the city's water. The water comes from the middle of the lake and it keeps its cool temperature throughout the process, which is around 10º C during the summer, and 4-5º C during the winter.

Gloria Nieto/The Globe and Mail

11 of 14

R.C. Harris Water treatment plant, Toronto's main treatment plant, produces around 35% of the city's water. This is one of the forty filtration beds in the filtration building. Lake water, treated with a coagulant, is pumped on top of the beds, which are covered in charcoal. The water filters down the charcoal and the successively coarser layers of rock underneath it, until it reaches an underground reservoir. Chemicals are added then, mainly fluoride and chlorine.

Gloria Nieto/The Globe and Mail

12 of 14

A plaque on one of the pumps in the south building of R.C. Harris water treatment plant.

Gloria Nieto/The Globe and Mail

13 of 14

R.C. Harris Water treatment plant, Toronto's main treatment plant, produces around 35% of the city's water. The old control room where the operators overlooked the pumps now hosts a number of historical pictures and maps, and it is used as a learning centre for visitors.

Gloria Nieto/The Globe and Mail

14 of 14

The south building of R.C. Harris water treatment plant seen from a window of the filtration building up the hill.

Gloria Nieto/The Globe and Mail

Report an error