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Sugar & Irwin Creek Wastewater Treatment Plants Celebrate 90 Years!

Protecting Charlotteans public health and waterways is something to celebrate. Sugar Creek and Irwin Creek Wastewater Treatment Plants do just that and are celebrating their 90th birthdays. When today’s Sugar Creek and Irwin Creek plants began construction in 1927, the plants were among the first modern-style plants in the state using the highly-effective activated sludge (microbiological) treatment process. The twin facilities — both located 6 miles outside the City limits at that time — were a modern marvel featured in the November 1928 edition of Public Works Magazine.

The activated sludge process removed nutrients and organic materials from the waterway. This development led to, arguably, the single most significant improvement in public health and environmental protection during the course of the century.


iwin creek lab and vacuum sludge dewatering 1927
Irwin Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant- 1927


When they opened, both plants boasted a total treatment capacity of 6 million gallons per day (mgd) and an average flow of about half that amount.

Sugar & Irwin were not the original wastewater plants. In fact, Charlotte’s first recorded sewer system dates back to July 17, 1876, when a contract was awarded for the first sewer lines along Trade Street. In 1903, large sewer collection pipes (outfalls) were begun for the Sugar & Irwin creek basins. Sugar Creek WWTP has been at its existing site since 1924 and performed partial treatment of wastewater before it was put back into creeks and streams, but three years later, work began on new-and-improved plants utilizing activated sludge technology and fully treating the wastewater.


a1927 SUGAR copy
Sugar Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant – 1927


Fast forward to 2017, Sugar and Irwin Creek wastewater treatment plants are still serving the ever-growing population of Charlotte 24/7. Along with three other wastewater treatment plants, 80 million gallons of wastewater is treated daily.